NEW YORK (WUSA9/AP) - Federal authorities say they raided 7-Eleven stores in New York and Virginia as part of an investigation into human smuggling, identity theft and money laundering. The inquiry involves allegations that store owners helped smuggle workers into the U.S. from Pakistan.
According to a press release on Monday, some store owners and managers of 14 7-Eleven stores "allegedly hired dozens of illegal immigrants, 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."
Some store owners and managers were arrested Monday after authorities inspected approximately 30 stores. More than a dozen workers have been taken into custody by immigration officials.
The defendants in the case were listed as:
- 57-year-old Farrukh Baig, Head of Harbor, New York
- 49-year-old Bushra Baig of Head of Harbor, NY
- 51-year-old Malik Yousaf of South Setauket, NY
- 51-year-old Zahid Baig of Chesapeake, Virginia
- 62-year-old Shannawaz Baig of Virginia Beach, Va.
- 34-year-old Tariq Rana of Chesapeake, Va.
- 49-year-old Ramon Nanas of Great River, NY
- 49-year-old Azhar Zia of Great River, NY
- and 48-year-old Ummar Uppal of Islap Terrace, NY
Authorities say if convicted, the defendants will face 20 years of imprisonment on wire fraud conspiracy and alien harboring charges, as well as multiple counts of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory, two-year term of incarceration. All property used to facilitate the harboring of illegal immigrants, together with all proceeds of the wire fraud conspiracy and alien harboring charges, are subject to forfeiture, according to authorities.
According to the indictments and court papers, Farrukh and Bushra Baig are a married couple who owned, co-owned and/or controlled 12 7-Eleven franchise stores on Long Island, New York and in Virginia. Zahid Baig and Shannawaz Baig are Farrukh Baig's brothers, who helped to manage and control the stores, assisted by Malik Yousaf, Tariq Rana and Ramon Nanas, according to indictments. Brothers Ahzar Zia and Ummar Uppal owned and controlled two other Suffolk County 7-Eleven franchise stores.
Authorities say from 2000 until the present, the defendants collectively and systematically employed more than 50 illegal immigrants at 14 7-Eleven franchise stores in Long Island and Virginia. They allegedly used 20 stolen identities to conceal the presence of illegal immigrants on the 7-Eleven franchise store payrolls. 7-Eleven headquarters processed the payroll and sent the employees' wages to the defendants for distribution, but then the defendants allegedly stole portions of the wages, rather than paying the workers in full. The defendants also made the workers live in homes they owned and to pay rent in cash to the them, according to allegations.
According to allegations in court documents, the defendants stole identities of people from seven states, from ages 8 to 78 years old, including a child, three dead people and a Coast Guard cadet.
Authorities say the defendants allegedly generated over $182 million in proceeds from the 7-Eleven franchise stores.
The 7-Eleven company says in a statement that it is cooperating with federal authorities. It had no further comment.