Niagara Gazette

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June 17, 2013

Feds say 7-Eleven stores exploited immigrants

Nine owners and managers of 7-Eleven stores across Long Island and in Virginia were charged Monday with making tens of millions of dollars by exploiting immigrants from Pakistan and the Philippines, in part by paying them using the stolen Social Security numbers of a child and three dead people while stealing most of their wages.

Most of the defendants were arrested early Monday as federal authorities raided 14 franchise stores. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were executing search warrants at more than 40 other stores across the country suspected of similar infractions, authorities said at a Brooklyn news conference.

"These nine defendants created a modern-day plantation system, with themselves as overseers, with the immigrant workers as subjects, living in their version of a company town," U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch told a news conference in Brooklyn.

Four defendants who hold both U.S. and Pakistani citizenship belong to a family that has participated in social events with Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, prosecutors said in court papers as they highlighted foreign ties while successfully arguing against bail for most defendants. Another defendant is a citizen of the Philippines. The government said the defendants pocketed tens of millions of dollars in the scheme, hiding some money.

Federal indictments naming eight men and one woman allege that since 2000 they employed more than 50 immigrants who didn't have permission to be in the U.S. They tried to conceal the immigrants' employment by stealing the identities of about two dozen people — including those of the child, the dead and a Coast Guard cadet — and submitting the information to the 7-Eleven payroll department.

When 7-Eleven's headquarters sent the wages for distribution, the employers stole up to 75 percent of the workers' pay, authorities said. The defendants also forced the workers to live in houses they owned and pay them rent in cash, they added.

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