Tag Archive | "7-eleven"

Sag Harbor 7-Eleven Owners Plead Guilty to Federal Charges

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Officials from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement at Sag Harbor’s 7-Eleven in June 2013. Photo by Kathryn G. Menu.

By Mara Certic

The former operators of Sag Harbor’s 7-Eleven pleaded guilty to wire fraud and concealing and harboring illegal aliens while stealing their wages on Monday, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Farrukh Baig, 58, and his wife, Bushra Baig, 50, of Head of Harbor, New York, controlled 14 7-Eleven stores on Long Island and in Virginia and allegedly hired dozens of illegal aliens, harbored them illegally, supplied them with stolen identities and stole their wages.

In addition to the couple, Mr. Baig’s brothers, Zahid Baig, 53, and Shannawaz Baig, 63, of Chesapeake and Virginia Beach, Virginia, respectively and co-defendant Malik Yousaf, 52, of Setauket also pleaded guilty on Monday.

Two additional defendants in the case, Tariq Rana and Ramon Nanas had pleaded guilty earlier, according to the news release.

According to court records, Mr. and Mrs. Baig provided their employees with more than 20 identities stolen from United States citizens, housed those employees at houses they owned and skimmed large portions of their employees’ wages.

“Using the 7-Eleven brand, the defendants dispensed wire fraud and identity theft, along with Big Gulps and candy bars,” U.S. Attorney for Eastern New York Loretta Lynch said in a release. “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 Baigs used identities for their illegal employees that were stolen from a Coast Guard cadet, three dead people, and a child. The victims of identity fraud spanned seven states, according to court records.

“The defendants also exploited their alien employees, stealing their wages and requiring them to live in unregulated boarding houses,” Ms. Lynch said.

“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 in wages from their enslaved workers,” said Homeland Security Special Agent-in-Charge James T. Hayes Jr.

According to the release, the defendants agreed to pay $2.6 million in restitution for back wages they stole from their employees. They also agreed to forfeit the franchise rights to 10 7-Eleven stores in New York and four in Virginia, as well as five houses in New York worth over $1.3 million.

“During the scheme, the defendants generated over $182 million in proceeds from the 7-Eleven franchise stores,” the release read. According to the Department of Homeland Security, this case is the largest criminal immigration forfeiture in its history.

According to the release, this prosecution was a result of President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which was created in November 2009 in order to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.

This indictment was one of more than 10,000 financial fraud cases the Justice Department has filed in the past three fiscal years; and the defendants are just five out of 15,000 who have been indicted since the creation of the task force.

The sentencing proceedings have not been scheduled yet, but according to the release they will be held before United States District Justice Sandra J. Feuerstein, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip. Farrukh Baig and Malik Yousaf both face sentences up to 20 years. The other defendants face up to 10 years’ imprisonment.


Sag Harbor 7-Eleven Employee Arrested for Stealing on the Job

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Bernard Cooks

Bernard Cooks, 33, was arrested Friday on charges of grand larceny for allegedly stealing from the Sag Harbor 7-Eleven while working there.

By Tessa Raebeck

Sag Harbor Village Police arrested Bernard T. Cooks, 33, of Bridgehampton on Friday, September 5, at 2:42 p.m. on charges of grand larceny in the fourth degree, a felony.

While working at the 7-Eleven in Sag Harbor on August 10, Mr. Cooks allegedly stole $1,085.76 from the register he was manning.

The store manager told police Mr. Cooks took money out of the register and put it in a plastic bag, which he placed in the garbage before returning to retrieve the cash. This occurred at least twice between 6:55 and 7:55 p.m., the manager told police. At the end of Mr. Cooks’s shift, the register was $1,085.76 short, police said.

Mr. Cooks, who is currently on parole for previous offenses, was arrested and transported to police headquarters before being arraigned in Sag Harbor Village Justice Court on Friday at 4 p.m.. He was transferred to Suffolk County Jail in Riverhead to await a later court appearance.

Southampton Town Police arrested Mr. Cooks in January 2011 as part of an investigation into crack-cocaine dealing at a house in North Sea. He was convicted of felony charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance. He was released from prison in May 2012 after serving less than a year.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s office dropped all charges against him due to an ongoing investigation into the alleged misconduct of a Southampton Town Police officer in the Street Crimes Unit that had conducted the initial drug raids on Mr. Cooks’s house.

Montauk’s 7-Eleven is Highest Grossing in the Nation

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A patron enters the 7-Eleven in Montauk Thursday afternoon.

A patron enters the 7-Eleven in Montauk Thursday afternoon. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

Selling boogie boards and beer can turn quite a profit – in Montauk, that is. Opened in 2010 despite protests from vocal residents, the Montauk 7-Eleven is the chain’s top-grossing store in the United States.

Of 7,800 locations nationwide, the four most profitable are all in Suffolk County, with the East Patchogue, Southampton and Farmingville stores following behind Montauk. Sag Harbor’s 7-Eleven earned the 11th spot. Of the top 10 locations by sales in the country last year, eight were in Suffolk County, according to 7-Eleven Inc. There are 208 stores on Long Island.

“It’s a Long Island thing,” franchisee Chris Stephens, who runs the stores in Montauk and East Patchogue, told Newsday. The East Patchogue and Southampton locations have fought for the top spot in recent years, but this year, Montauk’s summer sales helped the store to secure first place.

“You really target what’s needed from the community and people who’re here,” Mr. Stephens said of his business model. The Montauk store is flush with St. Patrick’s Day gear in March and stocked with sunblock, beach umbrellas and water guns in the summer. Beer is popular year-round and animal hats are a constant.

Although the Dallas-based company declined to give an exact number, Mr. Stephens said he has annual sales in the low millions, selling about $100,000 in beer and $50,000 in coffee monthly. Last summer, the store sold 250 boogie boards.

Despite the evident popularity of Suffolk County 7-Elevens – or perhaps because of it – some year-round residents have been vocal in their opposition to the chain, first in Montauk and now in Amagansett. Plans to build a franchise in a commercial building to the east of the Amagansett IGA were delayed last week when the East Hampton Town Planning Department rescinded the project’s building permit, calling for further review.


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

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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.”


Community Rallies Around Accident Victim

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By Kathryn G. Menu

Many Sag Harbor residents think of Jhenny Bueno Arias much as Saqib Hameed does — bright, affable, hard working and great with children. Those are the qualities that made her shine for many who frequent the 7-Eleven where Arias and Hameed work at in Sag Harbor.

Since Arias, 36, was struck by a Jeep while walking home from work on January 15, community members have rallied around the single mother of four, donating roughly $1,600 through a bake sale at 7-Eleven and another $2,000 in donation jars.

According to Hameed — the manager at 7-Eleven and a friend of Arias — the injuries she suffered as a result of the accident will likely leave her thousands more in debt. This is why Hameed, working with several other residents, has vowed to continue fundraising to aid Arias, who as a single mother was the breadwinner for her four children.

On January 15, around 7:30 p.m. Arias was struck while crossing Brick Kiln Road at the intersection of Main Street. She was airlifted to Stony Brook University Medical Center where she was treated for a number of injuries including a punctured lung, broken ribs and a fractured hip and pelvis, among others, said Hameed.

The 60-year-old East Hampton driver involved in the accident was not injured and police did not charge him with a crime.

Hameed said Arias, who is a Sag Harbor resident, was sent home from the hospital this week, largely because of her lack of health insurance. Her injuries have still left her unable to walk, said Hameed.

Hameed said he was working to get her into a serious rehabilitation program for her injuries. Arias did start physical therapy earlier this week and does have help from her older son, he added, but medical bills and household expenses are piling up and fundraising is necessary, said Hameed.

Hameed has recently begun asking people to donate to Arias cause by making a check payable to Jhenny Bueno Arias and dropping it off at 7-Eleven or mailing it to P.O. Box 3134, Sag Harbor, New York 11963.

Hameed has been aided in the fundraising effort, he said, by Julie Adamski and Delia Chicka, who helped organize a bake sale that raised over $1,600 for Arias.

“Everyone has already been so supportive, it makes me very happy to live here,” said Hameed. “We have such a loving and helping community in Sag Harbor. I am very grateful for Jhenny.”

Man Found Unconscious in 7-11 Parking Lot

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According to Sag Harbor Village Police, a man was found unconscious in the 7-eleven parking lot on Sunday evening at around 9:40 p.m. Police say they were called by a witness who said they saw two Hispanic males in their mid-twenties exit a green Mercury Sable and then pull a third Hispanic male – also mid-twenties out of the vehicle. Police say the victim was then knocked to the ground, before the unknown suspects sped away. The victim was later medevaced to Stony Brook University Medical Center. As of yet, the police haven’t disclosed the identity of the victim. Police say the incident is still under investigation, and anyone with information is encouraged to contact the Sag Harbor Police Department Detective Jeffrey Proctor at 725-0623.