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DALLAS -- Federal authorities seized 14 7-Eleven Inc. stores in Long Island and Virginia today, charging nine owners and managers of harboring and hiring illegal immigrants and paying them using fake social security numbers.
Prosecutors are seeking $30 million in forfeiture from the stores and their Dallas-based corporate parent, according to media reports.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, N.Y., are also investigating 40 other 7-Eleven franchises in New York City and elsewhere, the New York Times reported.
The nine owners and managers were indicted on wire fraud and aggravated identify theft charges, stemming from payment to employees who were illegal immigrants using the social security numbers of children and the dead, authorities told the Times. Eight of the owners and managers were arrested as of 9 a.m., with five located in New York State and three in Virginia. One was still being sought.
The alleged illegal conduct has gone on since at least 2000, federal authorities claim.
"Today, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn announced it had filed two indictments related to alleged wrongdoing by independent 7-Eleven franchisees," 7-Eleven wrote in a statement provided to CSNews Online. "7-Eleven Inc. has cooperated with the government’s investigation. All of our franchise owners must operate their stores in accordance with laws and the 7-Eleven franchise agreement. 7-Eleven Inc. will take aggressive actions to audit the employment status of all its franchisees’ employees. 7-Eleven Inc. is taking steps to assume corporate operation of the stores involved in this action so we can continue to serve our guests. We continue to cooperate with federal authorities in this matter."
Dallas-based 7-Eleven Inc. operates, franchises or licenses more than 10,110 7-Eleven stores in North America.