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.