Long Island News
Long Island 7-Eleven owners charged in human smuggling bust
SUFFOLK COUNTY (WABC) -- A human trafficking ring has been busted.
Owners and managers of 14 7-Eleven stores have been arrested and accused of illegally bringing over foreign employees and then exploiting them.
Federal investigators say the 7-Eleven owners and managers used stolen identities to illegally hire dozens of employees and then stole their pay.
Federal agents carried out raids on more than a dozen different stores, prosecutors say the ring leaders lived on Long Island.
Most of the stores are also located in the tri-state and the rest are in Virginia.
"Unbelievable, wow," a resident said.
That was the reaction of hundreds of people as they went to 7-Eleven's across Long Island Monday and saw the doors locked and FBI agents inside.
Prosecutors say the owners and managers of the stores hired illegal immigrants from Pakistan forcing them into slave like labor conditions.
"Immigrant workers were routinely forced under threat of job loss of deportation to work upwards of 100 hours a week to live only in the houses defendants owned keeping only a small percentage of the money they earned," said Loretta Lynch, US Attorney.
"Never noticed any of them that were working complaining. They seemed like very happy people," said Jimmy Rose, a customer.
The ring leaders of the scheme, prosecutors say, are Farrukh and Bushra Baig.
The FBI arrested the married parents of two teenage children at their opulent home in St. James Monday morning.
Federal authorities say they, along with two of Farrukh's brothers, owned and operated the stores on Long Island and several in Virginia which were also raided.
Steven Politi represents Bushra Baig and says she had nothing to do with it.
"She doesn't run the store. She's not a day to day manager. She's a housewife and a mother," said Steven Politi, defense attorney.
But prosecutors say the family along with several others used an elaborate scheme to hide illegal workers on 7-Eleven payrolls by stealing the identities of US citizens.
"ID's stolen were from the living and the dead, from an 8-year-old child to a Coast Guard cadet who got a tax bill for 7-Eleven salary," Lynch said.
"To allege that this systematic widespread scheme, I just don't think it's borne out by the hard documentation we're going to get over the next several weeks," said Bob Del Col, defense attorney.
7-11 released a statement to Eyewitness News saying, "7-Eleven Inc. will take aggressive actions to audit the employment status of its franchisees' employees. We continue to cooperate with federal authorities in this matter."
long island, suffolk county, human trafficking, long island news, kristin thorne
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