U.S. seizes around 14 7-Eleven stores during immigration raids on Long Island and in Virginia, arresting nine owners and managers, and seized property which included five homes.
According to the New York Times, federal authorities seized 14 different 7-eleven stores and are investigating 10 other franchises in New York City and elsewhere in what is being called by officials:
“One of the largest criminal immigrant employment investigations ever conducted by the Justice and Homeland Security Departments.”
Reports say that these franchises have taken in “more than $180 million in revenue by running a “modern-day plantation system.”
Prosecutors reported that this “system” was built on the unpaid labor of dozens of illegal immigrants hired using fake Social Security numbers.
The franchise owners who have been charged with these crimes were licensed to use 7-Eleven buildings, trademarks and Slurpee and hot dog machines.
The franchise owners reportedly recruited more than 50 illegal immigrants and gave them identities that had been stolen from American citizens. The identities included both children and the deceased.
Authorities said that the employees worked for 100 hours a week and were only paid for a fraction of that time.
There were also forced to live in substandard housing owned by the operators of the convenience stores.
The New York Times reported:
“The store managers escaped notice, some for more than a decade, because the national company, 7-Eleven Inc., which has more than 7,600 stores in the United States, did not have safeguards in place to protect its payroll system from employee fraud, the authorities said.”
Ms. Lynch and James T. Hayes, who are in charge of ICE’s (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) office of investigations in New York City, said that the defendants “ruthlessly exploited their immigrant employees.”
There were 9 defendants initially identified in the 7-Eleven raids. These raids also come just as Congress is debating a major overhaul of the immigration system, though officials say that these raids are not connected to current debates.