NEW YORK — Five franchisees and operators of 7-Eleven, Inc. (7-Eleven) stores located throughout Long Island and Virginia entered guilty pleas Monday at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York. The defendants pled guilty to committing wire fraud and concealing and harboring illegal aliens employed at 7-eleven stores. The guilty pleas stem from an extensive investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE), Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
When sentenced, Farrukh Baig, 58, of Head of Harbor, New York and Malik Yousaf, 52, of South Setauket, New York face up to 20 years' imprisonment, and Bushra Baig, 50, of Head of Harbor, New York, Shahnawaz Baig, 63, of Virginia Beach, Virginia and Zahid Baig, 53, of Chesapeake, Virginia face up to 10 years' imprisonment. The defendants used identities stolen from U.S. citizens, including the deceased and children to conceal their scheme and harbored illegal alien workers at houses own by the defendants.
The pleas were announced by James T. Hayes, Jr., special agent-in-charge of HSI New York; Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Joseph A. D'Amico, superintendent, New York State Police; Edward Webber, commissioner, Suffolk County Police; and Irv Miljoner, district director, United States Department of Labor.
"These defendants knowingly hired illegal aliens to feed their greed, stole the identities of unsuspecting U.S. citizens, and swindled more than 2.6 million dollars in wages from their enslaved workers," said James T. Hayes Jr. special agent-in-charge of HSI New York. As a result of this investigation, HSI and its law enforcement partners have recorded the largest worksite enforcement forfeiture in the United States. This case serves notice to employers – that they will be severely punished if they seek to profit on the back of an illegal workforce."
"Using the 7-Eleven brand, the defendants dispensed wire fraud and identity theft, along with Big Gulps and candy bars. In our backyards, the defendants not only systematically employed illegal aliens, but concealed their employment by stealing the identities of children and even the dead. The defendants also exploited their alien employees, stealing their wages and requiring them to live in unregulated boarding houses," said Loretta E. Lynch, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. "We are committed to preserving the rule of law and protecting our communities from the abuses of corrupt businesses seeking to gain illegal advantage. I would like to thank our partners at HSI, New York State Police, Suffolk County Police and the United States Department of Labor for their hard work on this important and ongoing investigation."
According to court filings and facts presented in court, the defendants, who owned, managed, and controlled fourteen 7-Eleven franchise stores during the course of the conspiracies, allegedly hired dozens of illegal aliens, equipped them with more than 20 identities stolen from United States citizens, housed them at residences owned by the defendants, and stole substantial portions of their wages. During the scheme, the defendants generated over $182 million in proceeds from the 7-Eleven franchise stores. Profits from those stores were shared by the defendants and 7-Eleven.
These are the first convictions in the government's ongoing inquiry, which is already one of the largest criminal alien employment investigations ever conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice. The defendants have agreed to forfeit the franchise rights to ten 7-Eleven stores in New York and four 7-Eleven stores in Virginia, as well as five houses in New York worth over $1.3 million. The case announced today constitutes ICE's largest criminal immigration forfeiture in its history. In addition, the defendants agreed to pay $2,621,114.97 in restitution for the back wages that they stole from their workers. Two additional defendants in this case have previously pled guilty.
The sentencing proceedings for these defendants have not yet been scheduled but will be held before United States District Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York. The pleas were taken by United States Magistrate Judge Steven I. Locke.
The government's case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher A. Ott, Brian Morris and Elliot M. Schachner.
This prosecution was the result of efforts by President Obama's Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF) which was created in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes. With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys' Offices, and state and local partners, it's the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory, and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud. Since its formation, the task force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state, and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets, and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions, and other organizations. Over the past three fiscal years, the Justice Department has filed more than 10,000 financial fraud cases against nearly 15,000 defendants including more than 2,700 mortgage fraud defendants. For more information on the task force, visit http://www.StopFraud.gov