No 7-Eleven

Resisting Chain Stores and Corporate Control

Evidence in Long Island Houses of 7-Eleven ‘Plantation’

7-Eleven - Human TraffickingNew York Times: Evidence in Long Island Houses of 7-Eleven ‘Plantation’

They were known as the “7-Eleven Houses,” the two shabby homes in Islip Terrace on Long Island, and not simply because of their proximity to the 7-Eleven on Carleton Avenue — one across the street and one tucked behind it. It was because, morning and night, the men, more than half a dozen just from one house, some neighbors said, would file from the peeling doorways to work at the convenience store in shifts so long that it sometimes seemed as if they lived not in the tattered houses, but at the shop.

But on Monday, after federal authorities indicted the owners of the 7-Eleven and seized the store, it was revealed that the houses were what prosecutors in New York State referred to as part of “a modern-day plantation system,” packed with illegal immigrants living in substandard conditions, working under false Social Security numbers, and being paid pennies on the dollar for hundreds of hours of labor.

“The guys worked tons of hours — they were always there,” said Nicole Koerner, 30, who lives across the street from one of the homes. She said she typically visited the store three times a day, often seeing the same employee during multiple visits in a 24-hour period. “I would say, ‘Take a vacation,’ ” she said. The response, invariably, was laughter.

The investigation — one of the largest inquiries into criminal employment of immigrants ever conducted by the Homeland Security and Justice Departments, officials said — has led to the seizure of 14 stores in Virginia and on Long Island, and it is also focusing on 40 other 7-Eleven franchises in New York City and elsewhere. In Islip Terrace, two brothers — Azhar Zia, a United States and Pakistani citizen, and Ummar Uppal, who officials said was an illegal Pakistani immigrant, were indicted.

The defendants, franchisees for the parent company, used identities stolen from American citizens, including dead people and at least one child, to recruit and employ over 50 illegal immigrants in the shops, according to prosecutors. But they are also accused of paying those employees only $300 to $500 for 100-hour workweeks, officials said, and forcing them to live in the houses. Investigators seized five homes, including the two in Islip Terrace.

Continue reading Evidence in Long Island Houses of 7-Eleven ‘Plantation’

McDonald’s and 7-Eleven Franchise Owners Push the Exploitation Envelope

Photo by Giorgio MartiniDaily Kos: McDonald’s and 7-Eleven Franchise Owners Push the Exploitation Envelope

Big corporations like McDonald’s and 7-Eleven exert a lot of control over their franchise owners when it comes to things like branding and the products they sell. When it comes to labor standards, though, it’s almost like corporate management doesn’t care at all, as two recent cases remind us. Fourteen 7-Eleven stores were seized and nine franchise owners and managers were arrested and charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud, identity theft, and harboring illegal immigrants. According to U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch:

… the 7-Eleven defendants allegedly forced the immigrants to work 100 hours a week and pocketed the majority of their pay, while also forcing them to live in and pay rent in boarding houses that the defendants owned. This “plantation system” allegedly went on for more than 13 years, she said.

The workers were assigned stolen identities by the defendants, but it sure sounds like the abuses directed at these workers merit some charges—you know, theft, forced labor, that kind of stuff? These 14 stores are looking like the tip of the iceberg, with 40 more being inspected, yet apparently in 13 years, 7-Eleven corporate management didn’t figure out something was wrong.

Continue reading McDonald’s and 7-Eleven Franchise Owners Push the Exploitation Envelope

7-Eleven Store Operators Accused of Exploiting Illegal Workers

Reuters: 7-Eleven store operators accused of exploiting illegal workers

The owners and managers of more than a dozen 7-Eleven Inc stores were accused on Monday of hiring and victimizing dozens of illegal immigrants, forcing them to live in substandard housing, giving them stolen identities and stealing their wages.

Federal authorities moved to forfeit the franchise rights to 14 of the convenience stores and seize five houses in New York worth more than $1.3 million, making the case the largest criminal immigration forfeiture in Department of Homeland Security history, according to federal and state officials.

The eight men and one woman charged in the scheme ran 7-Elevens in New York and Virginia, according to two indictments unsealed on Monday.

“These defendants ruthlessly exploited their immigrant employees, stealing their wages and requiring them to live in unregulated boarding houses, in effect creating a modern day plantation system,” said Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, in a statement released with Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration as well as state and local police.

More than 50 illegal immigrants were overworked and cheated out of their wages, the authorities said. Because they were illegally in the country, the victims may have been afraid to report possible wrongdoing, they added.

The immigrants were given identities stolen from more than 25 people, including dead people and children, they said. The scheme was concealed from 7-Eleven headquarters, they said.

In a separate statement, 7-Eleven, which is owned by Seven & I Holdings Co Ltd of Japan, said it was cooperating with the investigation and would have no further comment for now.

The scheme generated millions of dollars in profits, said Joseph D’Amico, Superintendent of the New York State Police which also worked on the case.

The victims were made to live in housing owned by the accused, leaving them “completely beholden” to their employers, he added.

The case may spread beyond Virginia and New York, as federal agents on Monday executed search warrants at about 30 other 7-Elevens around the country, and the investigation is ongoing, authorities said.

The nine defendants were charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud, stealing identities and concealing and harboring illegal immigrants.

If convicted, they could face 20 years apiece in prison on wire fraud conspiracy and alien harboring charges. The multiple counts of aggravated identity theft carry mandatory, consecutive two-year prison terms.

The accused included a married couple, Farrukh and Bushra Baig, who owned or controlled twelve 7-Elevens, as well as Baig’s brothers Zahid Baig and Shannawaz Baig and five other people.

Source: 7-Eleven store operators accused of exploiting illegal workers [Reuters]

U.S. Seizes 14 7-Eleven Stores in Immigration Raids

7-Eleven Raid - Long IslandNew York Times: U.S. Seizes 14 7-Eleven Stores in Immigration Raids

Federal authorities seized 14 7-Eleven stores on Long Island and in Virginia early Monday, arresting nine owners and managers and charging them with harboring and hiring illegal immigrants and paying them using sham Social Security numbers, people briefed on the case said.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn were also investigating 40 other 7-Eleven franchises in New York City and elsewhere, the person said, and the prosecutors were seeking $30 million in forfeiture from the stores and their corporate parent. The franchises split their profits with the corporation, which handles the store payrolls, the people said.

The owners and managers — eight men and a woman — were charged in an indictment to be unsealed Monday morning, the people said. It included accusations of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft stemming from payment of employees who were illegal immigrants using the Social Security numbers of children and the dead, the people said. One of the people said the owners and managers had abused and taken advantage of the illegal immigrant workers.

Many of those charged were of Pakistani descent and it was believed that most, if not all, of the illegal immigrants were also from Pakistan, one of the people said.

In one instance, an employee of one franchise was paid using the Social Security number of a former 7-Eleven employee, a person who had not worked for the store for 10 years and who had been the target of collection efforts by the Internal Revenue Service for much of that time because of the reported payments to the illegal immigrant, the people said.

The conduct charged in the indictment, the people said, had been going on for more than a decade. Twenty-five of the 40 additional 7-Eleven franchises under scrutiny were to be inspected on Monday as part of the ongoing investigation, the people said. Several of those stores were in New York City.

One of the people briefed on the matter, noting that the parent company handled the store payrolls, said there were no internal controls to prevent the same Social Security numbers from being used to pay more than one store employee, which happened in more than one instance.

Scott Matter, a spokesman for the parent company, said it was aware of the arrests and seizures and “has been cooperating with federal authorities during their investigation.” Mr. Matter said the company would have no comment until it learned more about the case.

By about 9 a.m., eight of the nine who had been indicted were in custody, five of them in New York and three in Virginia, one of the people said. The last individual was being sought.

One of the raids took place about 6 a.m., at a 7-Eleven on Carleton Avenue in Islip, on Long Island, according to a law enforcement agent at the scene who declined to give his name or reveal the agency he worked for. One person, he said, was taken into custody from the store and two people were taken away from a house across the street. It was unclear what connection the house had to the investigation.

The store remained closed through the early morning, with law enforcement agents turning away customers who ordinarily stop in for coffee. A worker for the Town of Islip said he had seen similar law enforcement activity at several other nearby 7-Elevens.

The United States attorney in Brooklyn, Loretta E. Lynch, and James T. Hayes, who is in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s office of investigations in New York City, were expected to announce the charges later Monday morning, along with officials from the New York State Police and the Suffolk County Police Department.

Source: U.S. Seizes 14 7-Eleven Stores in Immigration Raids [NY Times]


Feds Raid Nearly a Dozen Long Island 7-Elevens in Illegal Immigration Probe: Officials [NBC]
Feds arrest owners, managers in 7-Eleven raids [Newsday]