7-Eleven Harboring Case Leads to Largest Worksite Enforcement Forfeiture in ICE History
After entering guilty pleas to charges of wire fraud and concealing and harboring undocumented foreign workers, five franchisees and operators of 7-Eleven, Inc. (7-Eleven) stores located throughout Long Island and Virginia agreed to forfeit the franchise rights to ten 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. According to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), this constitutes ICE’s largest criminal immigration forfeiture in its history. In addition, the defendants agreed to pay $2,621,114.97 in restitution for the back wages that they allegedly stole from their workers. Two additional defendants in this case had previously pled guilty.
The guilty pleas stem from an extensive investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). The sentencing proceedings for these defendants have not yet been scheduled but will be held before United States District Judge Sandra J. Feuerstein, at the federal courthouse in Central Islip, New York. According to an ICE press release, these are the first convictions in the government’s ongoing inquiry, which is already one of the largest criminal alien employment investigations ever conducted by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice.
According to court filings and facts presented in court, the defendants-who owned, managed, and controlled fourteen 7-Eleven franchise stores during the course of the conspiracies-allegedly hired dozens of undocumented foreign workers, equipped them with more than 20 identities stolen from United States citizens, housed them at residences owned by the defendants, and stole substantial portions of their wages. During the scheme, the defendants generated over $182 million in proceeds from the 7-Eleven franchise stores. Profits from those stores were shared by the defendants and 7-Eleven.
[This article updates material in Fragomen, Shannon, and Montalvo, Immigration Employment Compliance Handbook § 5:3, Immigration Employment Compliance Handbook § 5:5, Immigration Employment Compliance Handbook § 5:42.]