If you live in New York or Virginia, your favorite ‘Slurpee’ may not be for sale today. Homeland Security and other federal agencies have seized as many as fifteen 7-Elevens.
Nine owners and managers of the convenience stores were arrested and charged with harboring and hiring undocumented immigrants, The New York Times reports. The store owners also stand accused of wire fraud and using fake Social Security numbers to pay their workers.
In what authorities are calling a ‘modern day plantation system,’ dozens of illegal immigrants, given false social security cards, were used by the franchise owners to create a business worth 180 million dollars.
The scheme involved 50 illegal immigrants. They gave them identities stolen from American citizens, including children and dead people. They were forced to work 100 hours a week, paid for far less, and were forced to live in squalor in buildings owned by the franchisees.
The authorities are investigating at least 40 more stores in New York, and elsewhere in the eastern United States.
Some of the franchise owners escaped detection for decades because of ineffective safeguards by the parent company, 7-Eleven, Incorporated. Authorities found one man in New York, and one at another 7-Eleven in Virginia, who used the same social security number to receive their paychecks.
There was “little to no effort to insure the integrity of their payroll system,” said Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, whose office helped investigate the case.
A spokesman for 7-Eleven Inc., Scott Matter, said in a statement that the company would “take aggressive actions to audit the employment status of all its franchisees’ employees” and was cooperating with federal authorities. The company, based in Dallas, is one of the largest operators of convenience stores in the world.
Federal authorities said that the raids are a part of an investigation into human smuggling, identity theft and money laundering, according to the AP. The respective store owners allegedly helped smuggle the workers into the U.S. from Pakistan.
In addition to the convenience stores, five homes were seized in what is one of the largest criminal immigrant employment investigations ever conducted by the Justice and Homeland Security Departments, officials said.
A Slurpee is very refreshing on a warm day, but you may not be able to buy one at your favorite 7-Eleven today. You might have to rely on an old fashioned “coke” for your thirst quencher.
The Guardian Express