Sweeping Immigration & Wire Fraud Investigation Results in Arrest of Sag Harbor 7-Eleven Owners

Posted on 19 June 2013

7-Elevenweb

Officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at Sag Harbor’s 7-Eleven on Monday morning. Officials were turning away patrons from the store, which was a part of a 14-store raid across Long Island and Virginia Monday morning. 

By Kathryn G. Menu

“The 7-Eleven is closed today.”

Those are the words customers attempting to enter the West Water Street, Sag Harbor business were told Monday morning by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. Those officers were part of a team that seized a number of 7-Eleven stores across Long Island in an investigation that resulted in the arrest of nine individuals.

The 7-Elevens stores seized in New York included franchises in Sag Harbor, Greenport, Cutchogue, Islip, Selden, Nesconset, Port Jefferson Station, Smithtown, Huntington and Islip Terrace.

In Virginia, two franchises in Chesapeake and one in Norfolk and Portsmouth were also seized in the raid.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, two indictments were unsealed Monday charging eight men and one woman from Long Island with conspiring to commit wire fraud, stealing identities and concealing and harboring illegal immigrants employed at 7-Eleven franchise stores located throughout Long Island and in Virginia.

Sag Harbor’s 7-Eleven is owned by husband and wife Farrukh and Bushra Baig, who also owned, co-owned and controlled 12 of the 7-Eleven franchise stores in question, including stores in Cutchogue and Greenport. Both are named in the indictment.

Calls to Farrukh Baig, 57, on Monday morning were not returned.

According to United States Attorney Loretta E. Lynch, throughout the scheme the defendants allegedly hired dozens of illegal immigrants, equipped them with more than 20 stolen identities, housed them at residences they owned and stole substantial portions of their wages.

In addition to Farrukh and Bushra Baig, 49, who are listed as residents of Head of Harbor, New York, other defendants in this case include Baig’s brothers, Zahid and Shannawaz Baig, 52 and 62, respectively, both from Chesapeake, Virginia. Malik Yousef, 51, of South Setauket, Tariq Rana, 34, of Chesapeake, Virginia, and Ramon Nanas, 49, of Great River, New York are also listed as defendants. Brothers Ahzar Zia, 49, of Great River and Ummar Uppal, 48, of Islip Terrace were indicted separately and controlled two other Suffolk County 7-Eleven franchise stores.

If convicted, the defendants will face 20 years’ imprisonment on wire fraud conspiracy and alien harboring charges, as well as multiple counts of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory, consecutive two-year term of incarceration. In addition, 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 a press release issued by Lynch on Monday.

All the defendants in the case were arraigned Monday afternoon in Norfolk and Central Islip. In Central Islip, the defendants pled not guilty and were held without bail.

According to court documents, from 2000 to the present, the defendants collectively and systematically employed more than 50 illegal immigrants at the 14 franchise stores on Long Island and in Virginia.

The defendants were responsible for using 7-Eleven’s automated payroll service, where they would input each employee’s personal identifying information and hours for transmission to corporate headquarters. Working with the data provided by the defendants, 7-Eleven processed the payroll and, after subtracting certain expenses, issued wages in the form of checks, direct deposits or debit cards.

However, rather than transmitting the true identification information of the illegal immigrant employees to 7-Eleven headquarters for processing, the defendants allegedly used more than 20 stolen identities, submitting stolen names and Social Security numbers of United States citizens to conceal the presence of illegal immigrants on the 7-Eleven franchise store payrolls.

As alleged in court documents, the victims of the identity theft hail from seven states, range in age from 8 to 78 years old, and include a child, three dead people and a Coast Guard cadet. In addition, the defendants, together with others, caused the 7-Eleven payroll service to transmit this false information, including the stolen identity information, to United States regulatory agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration.

7-Eleven headquarters processed the payroll and sent the employees’ wages to the defendants for distribution. The defendants then allegedly stole significant portions of the illegal immigrants’ wages, rather than paying the workers in full. The defendants also required the illegal immigrants to live in residences owned by the defendants and to pay rent in cash to the defendants.

One house harboring illegal aliens was discovered in Sag Harbor, but it is not one of the homes the government is seeking in its forfeiture action.

During the scheme, the defendants allegedly generated over $182 million in proceeds from the 7-Eleven franchise stores. Profits from those stores were shared by the defendants and 7-Eleven, according to the district attorney’s office.

According to special agent Lynda E. Interlandi, with public affairs for Immigrations and Customs Enforcement-Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), in 2010 that department received information through the New York State Police that suggested certain 7-Eleven franchise owners employed and exploited illegal aliens. In early 2011, another witness to the scheme was brought to HIS’s attention by the Suffolk County Police Department. The Suffolk County witness corroborated that information and provided additional details, accelerating the pace of the interagency investigation.

“Today the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn announced it had filed two indictments related to alleged wrongdoing by independent 7-Eleven franchisees,” said Margaret Chabris, communications director for 7-Eleven, Inc. in a statement. “7-Eleven, Inc. has cooperated with the government’s investigation. 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.”

The 7-Eleven in Sag Harbor opened on Tuesday, with new staff, and is being operated by corporate headquarters.

According to officials, the indictments, arrests and seizures are the result of what is one of the largest criminal immigrant employment investigations ever conducted by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security. On Monday, federal agents were sent out across the country to execute multiple search and seizure warrants and inspect approximately 30 7-Eleven franchise stores.

According to court records, the government has moved to forfeit the franchise rights to 10 7-Eleven stores in New York and four 7-Eleven stores in Virginia. It has also moved to forfeit five houses in New York worth over $1.3 million. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the case announced today constitutes the largest criminal immigration forfeiture in its history.

“As set forth in the indictments, the defendants used 7-Eleven as a platform from which to run elaborate criminal enterprises,” said Lynch. “From their 7-Eleven stores, the defendants dispensed wire fraud and identity theft, along with Slurpees and hot dogs. In bedroom communities across Long Island and Virginia, the defendants not only systematically employed illegal immigrants, but concealed their crimes by raiding the cradle and the grave to steal the identities of children and even the dead.”

“Finally, these defendants ruthlessly exploited their immigrant employees,” added Lynch, “stealing their wages and requiring them to live in unregulated boarding houses, in effect creating a modern day plantation system. As this case shows, we are committed to preserving the rule of law and protecting our communities from the abuses of corrupt businessmen seeking to gain illegal advantage. I would like to thank our partners at HSI, New York State Police, Suffolk County Police and SSA-OIG for their hard work on this important investigation.”

“The 7-11 franchises seized today will be better known for their big fraud than their Big Gulp,” said James T. Hayes, special agent in charge with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations New York field office. “As alleged, the franchise owners knowingly and repeatedly employed an illegal workforce and abused and exploited that workforce for more than 13 years. This charged criminal scheme had a vast detrimental effect on both the employees who were overworked and cheated out of wages, as well as the more than 25 American citizens whose lives were upended by the theft of their identities in furtherance of the scheme.”

“As alleged in the indictment, these nine individuals took full advantage of illegal immigrants through a multi-state scheme that generated millions in profits for themselves while ignoring the common decency in the employer/employee relationship,” said New York State Police Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico. “The defendants allegedly provided the illegal immigrants with false documentation, stole significant portions of their wages and set them up in living arrangements that left the individuals completely beholden to them. I commend the unwavering dedication of the State Police Investigators who worked with our partners from federal, state and local law enforcement to make these defendants accountable for their actions.”

“As charged in the indictments, the defendants have been exploiting vulnerable individuals who, due to their immigration status, may have been afraid to come forward and report possible wrongdoing by their employers,” said Suffolk County Police Commissioner Edward Webber. “This multi-agency investigation illustrates our commitment to fighting against employers who abuse immigrant employees for their own financial gain.”

“The Social Security Number System within the Social Security Administration (SSA) tracks individuals’ earnings throughout their work history to later determine the SSA retirement benefit they have earned,” said Social Security Administration Office of the Inspector General Special Agent-in-Charge Edward Ryan. “The type of alleged actions of the individuals named in this indictment not only violates federal law, but also threatens the integrity of the Social Security Number System by causing wages to be erroneously posted to SSA’s system of records. We appreciate the cooperation of the represented law enforcement agencies here today in our ongoing initiatives to prevent fraud, waste and abuse of SSA programs.”

 

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19 Responses to “Sweeping Immigration & Wire Fraud Investigation Results in Arrest of Sag Harbor 7-Eleven Owners”

  1. Eric Cohen says:

    Very thorough reporting. Learned more here about this story than I did from the New York Times. Thank you.

  2. Charlotte says:

    That is nice… but they will get off, because the elected morons in Washington want their votes.

  3. Shesh says:

    Everyday the media seems to skew information drastically. The Public will never see the real truth behind the matter because of the media keeps changing words around to sympathy with the illegal immigrants. The media forgot to mention that these said illegal immigrants weren’t forced to work in these conditions. They choose to work long and arduous hours to provide for their that live with them in the states or the ones that live back home. They choose to take the living conditions their employer provided because it gave them a roof over their heads and a place to come out of the impoverish countries they had to leave. They came to America because of Lazy Americans who decided from the beginning that they will only put 40 hrs a week and only 40 hrs a week alone. Its not only these franchisee owners fault for what they have done, it’s the society we live in that makes them choose a route that seems feasible. If Americans were ready and willing to get out of the lazy couch and find work at these seven elevens then franchisee owners wouldn’t turn to these obscene acts of employment.

  4. E.M. Maxx says:

    Lazy Americans ….. Really ….. Most Americans don’t live 50 to one house ……. I know plenty of Americans that work 50 hours a week or more …. Myself being one of them …. And guess what …my boss is not American and pays me a crap wage and I have a SECOND part time job … LEAVE THE COUNTRY IF YOU DONT LIKE IT HERE BUT DO NOT DEFEND THE PIGS LIKE THE PEOPLE AT THE 7-11 THAT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF OTHER PEOPLE

  5. Abdul says:

    Seven Eleven store chain has assisted in the crime to happen.. They have shared the proceeds and should be subject to justice and party in the criminal offence..

  6. Shesh says:

    First off Max, There hasn’t been proven fact that more than 50 people live in one house. That erroneous mind set should be left out of the picture. Maybe four to five people per apartment was the maximum any of the franchisees would rent for. One reason behind that would be the fact that it doesn’t take more than four to five employees to run a given seven eleven. These apartments or housing would be relatively close to the seven eleven because it would cut down cost of buying a car for the illegal immigrants. With that in retrospect, the employer would be renting one apartment per seven eleven.

    Secondly, working 50 hours a week would only mean that you were jacking off at your desk for an extra hour everyday of the given week. Sorry to say it, but an extra hour a day doesn’t mean jack shit. These immigrants are voluntarily taking on close to 12 to 13 hours a day so they can provide for their families or make something of themselves. Immigrants don’t come to this Great nation just to work the 9-5 work day. They go above and beyond so they can save up money and hopefully have their own business.

    So the bottom line is we shouldn’t be blaming only one side of the picture. These illegal immigrants came to this country on their own and found these employers on their own. They probably even knew the employers from back home in Pakistan or Philippines.

    Lastly, these employers need employees they can trust. They need someone that they know won’t steal and loot them between the hours of 9 p.m. – 7a.m. They want someone they know that will be so reliable that even if the immigrant lost a wife or brother, they would still be willing to come to work the day his brother or wife died. These employers started this business to make money not to lose it every day because of someone who probably steals cash out of the drawer or gives free slur pees to every friend they see coming into the store. Every minute and every merchandise cost something. If your not always making money you are always losing it.

    So to conclude this argument , I’m not leaving this country because i’m defending something that i know is wrong but i understand why the employers did what they had to do. After all this is America and I came here so I can voice my opinion unlike the nations that suppress it’s citizen from saying in what they believe in.

    Thank You

  7. rkm says:

    The owners and the illegal employees all are from Pakistan. Our border is totally broken. Many of these legal and illegal immigrants from Muslim countries harbor ill-will for America as proven by the 9/11 massacre, Boston bombing, Fort Hood incident, Times Square attempted bombing and scores of other terror incidents.

  8. E.M. Maxx says:

    Really shesh … I’m ” jacking off ” at my desk …. You just lost all your credibility ….. You have no idea what I do for a living …you also have no idea how many hours I voluntarily work to make ends meet Also my 50 to a house comment ,although an exaggeration ,was meant to illustrate that over crowding in rentals have been a problem for some time …especially with illegal immigrants ….and what makes you think I’m not a trustworthy employee …. And shame on you Sag Harbor Express for giving the green light to such a foul post …that’s not free speech shesh that’s ignorance ….and yes rkm…..they DO INDEED harbor ill will …….

  9. E.M. Maxx says:

    Oh and one more thing shesh … Taking a day off when a loved one dies does not make an employee ” un reliable “……….

  10. bell says:

    E.M. Maxx…first of all I would like you to hear what the Native American said about the pilgrims and other immigrants..”they weren’t invited” this is their land like it or not…please go and google Jews, Italian, Irish, Chinese etc Immigrants and their leaving conditions when they first came here….it was exactly the same way MANY is a small spaces…for economical reasons; also they one that make money here are the owners of those house charging at list $600 a person…..just add and you will see how much money they make …BIG business…

  11. bell says:

    rkm …OMG if they come from Pakistan they came in an airplane not crossing the Mexican or Canadian boarder ….been Muslim is nothing wrong…is just another religion …the problem is with extremists ..same with right or left extremist…I welcome the Muslim, Catholic, Buddhist or any other religion…is all about balance…
    Also remember that when you said America you are talking from Canada to Patagonia that is the American continents …and it Sub-Continents: North America (Canada, USA, Mexico), Central America (all the Central AMerican countries) South America (from Venezuela to Patagonia).

  12. Shesh says:

    To debunk RKM’s comment , I would just like to say that these men were here to make a living and live the “American Dream.” They weren’t crazy extremest who were preaching there views to people coming into Seven Eleven. The were like any other businessmen who come to this country. They probably had a vision and work to achieve that vision. Once again I’m not saying what they did was right. They did what they had to do to make their ends meet. They probably didn’t even think for a second that they were doing something wrong. It probably was instinctive. If one of your own friends came to you and asked you for a job and earn a decent living and help provide for themselves and their family members what would you do say “NO.” If an immigrant migrated to this country in search of prosperity would you deny him his chance. More than likely no. Another thing that this article portrays as decivious is the fact that these immigrants were forced to come to a land of prosperity. Would you really think someone needs to be forced to come to America just to work for 12 hours. I don’t think so. This isn’t SEX trafficking. And do you still believe that Big Cooperate American CEO are any better than these small business men. Have you seen the type of working conditions and lifestyles Walmarts, Apple , Microsoft, or any other large cooperation that send jobs oversees. Have you witnessed any of the sweat shops that Americans make other countrymen in china or India or Pakistan or Mexico work in. Probably not. These immigrants are working in a clean environment and have been provided living quarters that far exceeds the standard of living they once had.

    Maxx i didn’t say YOU were not a trustworthy employee. I said it hard to come across a trustworthy employee. Go to any boss and he will tell you the same thing. Another thing Maxx.. Ignorance means the lack of knowledge on a particular subject. You my friend are misinformed and lack awareness of this subject. The entire media ranging from CNN, to FOX, to MSNBC is completely one sided on this subject. If you actually have met with any of this employees or employers you would know that all these articles are complete rubbish.

    One more thing, Even if a loved one died you are still entrusted to come to work that day. You made a promise and signed a contract that obligates you to do so. It up to the employers discretion on whether or not you should have a emergency leave. 9 times out of 10 the employer will say you can have a week off. But if the employee comes to work that day and stays for an entire week you know for sure he is dedicated and reliable any given day of the week.

  13. E.M. Maxx says:

    First to bell….I never claimed to be a Native American…. I agree that Native Americans were and are STILL treated poorly …. As for immigration ….there is a HUGE difference between immigration now as compared to the turn of the century …yes at the turn if the century most immigrants lived in horrible conditions ,however they tried to assimilate not kill us…… …now to you shesh……… as for big corporate America …I agree that they are the biggest thieves ….finally you certainly did insinuate that most employees including myself are not trustworthy ….and as for the comment “it’s hard to come across a trustworthy employee..go to any boss” ..aren’t you contradicting yourself ?. Are we not talking about bad working conditions…there are many trustworthy people out there working for horrible people….

  14. Anonymous says:

    I know one thing for sure that Ummar Uppal has nothing to do with this case but is still getting all the blame for and his family, news reporters only know how to over exaggerate. We all know that, and another thing that If their are people who are from Pakistan the Phillips. Write now you are just calling them two out you do not see us (Americans ) saying anything to the Latinos Mexicans Italians Indian and other nationality people and telling them to leave and please take another look at the constitution and go back a few years and remember M L K he got rid of race ism and this type of stuff.

  15. Taani says:

    Some hard facts if we could consider;

    It’s been ages illegal immigrants come to US through legal & illegal means, different nationalities from all around world, even those visitors which travel without visa from American & European regions and are not entitled to work. 15 to 20 % of these visitors might have intentions either to stay beyond their legal granted stay or to stay permanently in US.
    So these have to work by any legal or illegal means, like they try to get marry (easiest way, just paper arrangements) and by some other tricky means too and some might go for legal means by converting their stay to legal status, but again they have limitations to work unless they granted full legal status.
    Its a hard fact these people opt all the illegal means to support their living so in this case who is responsible? Immigration, IRS, Homeland, who?? Or just those people who knowingly or unknowingly give jobs to these people, so if we have to victimize, should all responsible departments & people be treated by equally?
    It’s a hard fact too that racism is also playing a crucial role in our society and it’s also true since 9/11 Muslims are the only victims for even uncommitted crimes, is it a justification if some terrorists do nasty things and whole Muslim community has to be suffered. And Pakistanis’ are at top to be victimized though they never be the terrorists (whereas by supporting War against Terrorism Pakistan has destroyed its own country economically beside killing of over 100,000 innocent people by Afghan & other nations supported fundamentalist/talabans/terrorists & by American Drowns) Terrorists and mafia of other nationalities and races are proven more terrifying but we don’t talk much about them and those have very less projections by the media & authorities..
    To me these 7 Eleven people are not lawbreakers as being projected, they might and might not have facilitated some illegal immigrants who worked at their stores, it could also be reality that these illegal immigrants must have opted the same means which these people used to opt, everybody knows its so simple to get fake n pirated IDs. This could also be reality that people who provide fake IDs have clear idea where their customers normally work and definitely these places included Gas stations & Convenience Stores so benefit of doubts are always there that who did intentionally wrong n who did unintentionally.
    And the statements by reporters, If the 7 Eleven headquarters have facilitated Law enforcing agencies to tap this unpleasant happening, why those headquarter people were sleeping since last so many years, why they don’t probe on regular basis to check with their franchisees, if some illegalities are happening they should facilitate their franchisees to probe at their premises besides getting their hands aside to enhance complications to their own business, so to me 7Eleven headquarter is more responsible for the negligence beside just victimizing 7 Eleven owners. And the law enforcing agencies, why they don’t keep records of illegal immigrants where they are residing and by what means they are meeting their living expenses, so shouldn’t these agencies be responsible as well??
    Yeah this could also be reality that these 7 Eleven owners must have provided housing facility to their employees, let’s consider if the employees would be legal and still staying at these provided houses, what would be the stance of Reporters & law enforcing agencies? Realistically these 7 Eleven owners definitely were increasing their earnings by getting the rent, but on the other side they were providing a nearby residence facilities to employees if they wanted to stay to cut their living cost in these expensive areas, where to get rental housing is definitely expensive, and I am sure very few employees would be staying there and their legal status to work in US is unclear yet, to me these are all exploitations by reporters and to me its not a crime but is a smart business.
    We all accept illegal immigrants are present everywhere in our society and being human they do have the right to earn their living beside they could have the facility to get food stamps to live without much hassle, it’s a fact too that people getting food stamps even don’t consider to work at these gas stations and convenience stores, its our society and we have to accept this hard reality.
    We have to realize, should we only victimize people like these 7 Eleven owners or we should also consider by whom negligence these illegal immigrants are present in our society.

  16. Taani says:

    I am totally agree with Shesh

  17. E.M. Maxx says:

    Ridicilous

  18. Jack Evans says:

    Hot of the press. Very interesting thanks for posting.

  19. Akil Venjara says:

    Its about time that these crooked people should learn some lesson and obeys the laws of the land…. I hope they can get long sentences and all the ill gotten wealth should sized so they can look back and ponder as how they cheated those poor illegal immigrants. It should be a lesson to other 7-11 owners that greed does not pay. GOD BLESS AMERICA.


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