Feds swoop in on 14 MUSLIM-owned 7-Elevens and charge nine with identity theft and immigration fraud

imagesNine 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.

ABC News  (h/t Jennifer L) According to the indictments and court papers filed in the Eastern District of New York, the defendants Farrukh and Bushra Baig are a married couple who owned, co-owned and/or controlled 12 of the 7-Eleven franchise stores, located on Long Island, New York and in Virginia. Defendants Zahid Baig and Shannawaz Baig are Farrukh Baig’s brothers, who helped to manage and control the stores, assisted by defendants Malik Yousaf, Tariq Rana and Ramon Nanas. Brothers Ahzar Zia and Ummar Uppal, indicted separately, owned and controlled two other Suffolk County 7-Eleven franchise stores.

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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. The government said the defendants pocketed tens of millions of dollars in the scheme, hiding some money.

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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.

Lynch said stolen identifications were “recycled from store to store and state to state” in a case driven by greed among defendants who bought big houses. The government seized the franchise rights of 10 stores in New York and four stores in Virginia. The stores will remain open under the parent company’s operation. Authorities said the stores had generated $182 million in profits shared by the defendants and 7-Eleven.

The defendants appeared in court on Long Island and Norfolk, Va., facing wire fraud conspiracy, identity theft and alien harboring charges. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy and other charges.

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