NEW YORK (AP) — Nine owners and managers of 7-Eleven stores on Long Island and in Virginia were charged on Monday in a scheme to exploit immigrants from Pakistan, including some business-owners who used Social Security numbers of children and dead people on the workers' paystubs.
Most of the defendants were arrested early Monday as federal authorities raided 14 franchise stores. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents were inspecting other stores across the country for similar infractions.
The defendants "not only systematically employed illegal immigrants, they concealed their crimes by raiding the cradle and grave to steal the identities of children and even the dead," U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch said in a statement.
The employers stole their workers' wages and housed them in illegal boarding rooms, "in effect creating a modern day plantation system," Lynch added.
The defendants were to appear in court later in the day to face wire fraud conspiracy, identity theft and other charges. They face up to 20 years in prison if convicted of conspiracy.
A 7-Eleven spokesman said the company was cooperating with the investigation, but declined further comment.