Five former 7-Eleven franchisees have pleaded guilty to wire fraud and concealing and harboring illegal immigrants, after they allegedly hired illegal immigrants and used stolen IDs to steal more than $2.6 million in wages from the employees, while forcing them to live in rundown boarding houses across Suffolk County, WABC-TV New York reported.
Defendants Farrukh Baig, Malik Yousaf, Bushra Baig, Shahnawaz Baig and Zahid Baig pleaded guilty Monday at the federal courthouse on Long Island. They agreed to forfeit franchise rights to 10 stores in New York and four in Virginia, and to forfeit the five houses they owned, valued at more than $1.3 million.
“Using the 7-Eleven brand, the defendants dispensed wire fraud and identity theft, along with Big Gulps and candy bars,” said U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch in a statement. “In our backyards, the defendants not only systematically employed illegal aliens, but concealed their employment by using the names of children and even the dead.”
The mostly Pakistani and Filipino workers routinely worked 100 hours a week behind the counter and were paid just $350-$500 in cash—about a quarter of what they had earned, the New York Post reported.
According to the New York Post, the mastermind behind the operation, Farrukh Baig faces up to 20 years in prison at his sentencing.
Agents from the Department of Homeland Security first raided the stores involved in the scheme back in June 2013. At that time, 7-Eleven Inc. released a statement to the Huffington Post, noting it had cooperated with the government’s investigation and was taking steps to ensure it didn’t happen again. “All of our franchise owners must operate their stores in accordance with laws and the 7-Eleven franchise agreement. 7-Eleven Inc. will take aggressive actions to audit the employment status of all its franchisees’ employees. 7-Eleven Inc. is taking steps to assume corporate operation of the stores involved in this action so we can continue to serve our guests. We continue to cooperate with federal authorities in this matter.”