09/22/14 4:40pm
09/22/2014 4:40 PM
CYNDI MURRAY FILE PHOTO | Law enforcement officials outside Cutchogue 7-Eleven.

CYNDI MURRAY FILE PHOTO | Law enforcement officials outside the Cutchogue 7-Eleven during an immigration sweep in June 2013.

Five people indicted in last year’s federal raid on a series of 7-Eleven stores across Long Island and Virginia — including one couple who operated the stores in Cutchogue and Greenport — have pleaded guilty to wire fraud and concealing and harboring illegal aliens while stealing their wages, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

As part of their plea, the defendants forfeited the rights to 10 7-Eleven stores in New York and four 7-Eleven stores in Virginia, as well as five houses in New York worth over $1.3 million, prosecutors said. The deal marked the largest criminal immigration forfeiture in Department of Homeland Security history, according to the news release.

The defendants also agreed to pay more than $2.6 million in restitution for the back wages that they stole from their workers, the release states.

Farrukh Baig, 58, and his wife Bushra Baig, 50, both of Head of the Harbor, pleaded guilty before a federal magistrate judge in Central Islip court Monday, according to a news release.

Mr. Baig’s brothers — Zahid Baig, 52, of Chesapeake, Va. and Shannawaz Baig, 62, of Virginia Beach, Va. — along with co-defendant Malik Yousaf, 51, of South Setauket, also pleaded guilty. They had helped to “manage and control the stores,” prosecutors said.

Two others in the case —Tariq Rana of Chesapeake, Va. and Ramon Nanas of Great River — had previously pleaded guilty. A separate case against two other owners is still in federal court, though online court documents show the defendants are in the midst of plea negotiations.

Federal agents seized the 7-Eleven stores and arrested the defendants during a sweeping raid across Long Island and Virginia in June 2013.

Prosecutors said the ring hired illegal immigrants to work in their stores and stole the identities of 25 people  — including an 8-year-old, three dead people and a Coast Guard cadet — to trick 7-Eleven’s corporate headquarters into thinking the immigrants were U.S. citizens.

“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,” added U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch.

The group docked millions in pay from the immigrants wages and had them pay rent to the owners of the 7-Eleven, prosecutors said. Employees sometimes worked more than 100 hours per week, but were paid as if they had only worked for as little as 25 hours, prosecutors said.

“These defendants knowingly hired illegal aliens to feed their greed,” said Homeland Security special agent-in-charge James Hayes.

“The defendants also exploited their alien employees, stealing their wages and requiring them to live in unregulated boarding houses,” Ms. Lynch added. “We are committed to preserving the rule of law and protecting our communities from the abuses of corrupt businesses seeking to gain illegal advantage.”

When sentenced, Farrukh Baig and Malik Yousaf face up to 20 years in prison; Bushra Baig, Shahnawaz Baig, and Zahid Baig all face up to 10 years’ imprisonment. The nature of their plea deal was not immediately made available.

The sentencing for the group has not been scheduled yet, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.


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09/22/14 7:32am

An East Marion man driving under the influence of drugs crashed into a utility pole on Saturday afternoon, causing a power outage in Mattituck for a brief period.

Southold Police said they received a call Saturday about reports of an erratic driver on Route 48 in Mattituck. According to police, as an officer was about to pull the car over, the driver ran into a utility pole.

According to police, the driver — 27-year-old Brendan Vibert — was found to be impaired by drugs after the crash. He was also reportedly found to be in possession of heroin, suboxone, marijuana, and several Xanax pills.

Mr. Vibert was arrested on charges of criminal possession of a controlled substance, driving while ability impaired by drugs, and unlawful possession of marijuana.

A passenger in the car was transported to Eastern Long Island Hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

09/19/14 10:00am
09/19/2014 10:00 AM
A pedestrian was killed crossing Sound Avenue Thursday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)

A pedestrian was killed crossing Sound Avenue Thursday night. (Credit: Paul Squire)

UPDATE (6:40 a.m.): Southold police identified the victim of Thursday night’s accident as 86-year-old Howard Meinke of Laurel.

Police said Mr. Meinke was attempting to cross Route 48 in Greenport in a marked crosswalk when he was struck by a vehicle headed east driven by 41-year-old Eric Melrose of Greenport. Mr. Meinke had been leaving the Soundview Restaurant with family after attending an Italian dinner fundraiser for Eastern Long Island Hospital Auxiliary, family members said.

Mr. Meinke was transported to Eastern Long Island Hospital where he was pronounced dead, police said.

No criminal charges have been filed, and the case is pending further investigation. Mr. Melrose’s vehicle was impounded for a safety inspection.

Police Chief Martin Flatley said Mr. Meinke’s wife had already crossed the street when Mr. Meinke was hit. The driver told police that he didn’t see Mr. Meinke until it was too late.

Mr. Flatley said the straight road often makes it difficult for pedestrians to gauge vehicle’s speeds; that, combined with the darkness around the crosswalk at night, likely contributed to the accident, he said.

Mr. Meinke was a former president of the North Fork Environmental Council and a frequent contributor to The Suffolk Times’ opinion section.

His letters typically touched on topic ranging from local environmental concerns to global warming to economic inequality.

“He was probably one of the most passionate people that you’d want,” said Bill Toedter, current president of the NFEC. “Nothing flew off the top of his head, everything was very thought out. He was concerned with getting the facts right, but sometimes his heart and passion for the North Fork overrode everything.

“It’s a big loss for the East End,” Mr. Toedter said.

Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski had been at the fundraiser and had spoken to Mr. Meinke just before the accident.

“We were pretty shocked, because we had just seen him,” he said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of everyone involved.”

Mr. Krupski said the County Legislature had approved measures last year to divert the road — which has a 50-mph speed limit — further south to address safety concerns. Two other pedestrians had previously been killed in the same spot in 2007 and 2009.

Construction on the roadway is set to begin in 2016, with a divider being built in between the lanes of traffic for pedestrians to stop in.

“This is in the works,” he said. “We know it’s a dangerous part of the road.”

Mr. Krupski said he spoke with the Department of Public Works commissioner Friday morning about the plan, but added that the effort would take time since it still needed to be designed and utility poles would have to be moved.

“It’s a complicated project,” he said. “It’s not just a repaving.” Mr. Krupski said interim measures, like lowering the speed limit, may not make the area any safer.

“You can lower the speed, but that always comes down to enforcement,” he said.

Original Story: Southold Police Chief Martin Flatley said a man was killed Thursday night while crossing Route 48 in Greenport as he was leaving a restaurant.

The man, whose identification is being held pending notification of next of kin, was apparently leaving Soundview Restaurant and crossing the street southbound around 8 p.m. when he was struck by the vehicle, the chief said.

Greenport Fire Department responded to the scene and transported the victim to Eastern Long Island Hospital.

Thursday’s fatality was the second one of the day in Southold. Just after midnight, a 30-year-old mother drove into the woods in Orient Point with her 18-month-old daughter. The mother was killed in the single-car crash.

Check back with more information as it becomes available.

Correction: An earlier version of this article referred to the area of the accident as Sound Avenue, not Route 48.

09/18/14 7:27am
09/18/2014 7:27 AM
The scene of a crash at the end of Route 25 on Thursday morning. (Credit: Paul Squire)

The scene of a crash at the end of Route 25 on Thursday morning. (Credit: Paul Squire)

A 30-year-old mother was killed after driving off a private road in Orient and crashing just after midnight Thursday, Southold Town police said.

The woman’s 18-month-old daughter was in the car and survived unharmed, according to a police news release. (more…)

09/08/14 6:41pm
09/08/2014 6:41 PM

A Mattituck man was arrested Sunday in Cutchogue on drunken driving charges, Southold Town police said.

Marco Gregorio, 30, was pulled over after failing to drive within his lane while heading south on Depot Lane at around 12:20 a.m., police said.

Mr. Gregorio was charged with driving while intoxicated, having an expired registration, failing to maintain a lane and failing to submit a roadside breath test, officials said.

He was held at police headquarters for an arraignment, police said.

On June 1, Mr. Gregorio was also arrested on DWI charges in Cutchogue.