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Monday, June 24, 2013

7-Eleven Under Immigration Microscope


By Tommy Eden

Federal Prosecutors with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in New York on June 17 charged eight men and one woman with employing at least 50 illegal workers at 7-Eleven stores. They face charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, stealing identities and concealing and harboring workers living in the country without legal permission, and that the illegal employees were paid for a fraction of the 100 hours they worked in a week.

Those charged controlled 14 7-Eleven franchises in Long Island, N.Y., and Virginia. The DOJ claims the much of wages for the illegals were stolen, they were forced to live in housing owned by the defendants, and used more than 20 identities stolen from U.S. citizens. Identify theft victims ranged in ages from 8 to 78 years and include three dead people. The prosecutors labeled in their court filings that these defendants creating a “modern day plantation system.”

Under the Federal Immigration Laws, the government has the right to pursue any property used in the immigration fraud, and in their court documents moved to force the defendants to give up the franchise rights to the 14 stores and to seize five houses in New York worth $1.3 million. The Department of Homeland Security claims the case is the largest criminal immigration forfeiture in its history. If convicted, the defendants face 20 years in prison on wire fraud conspiracy and alien harboring charges. Identity theft charges can result in mandatory consecutive two-year terms of incarceration.

Two years ago a 7-Eleven employee approached the New York State Police about not being paid for his work which sparked the investigation. The investigation identified two families with roots in Pakistan and the Philippines who recruited from their own ethnic communities.

Common Sense Counsel: you may recall my prior article that on February 25, 2011, Howard Industries, Inc., pled guilty in federal court in Laurel, Miss to conspiracy to violate immigration laws and agreed to pay a $2.5 million fine Howard Industries waived indictment and acknowledged that the fine was in excess of the fine amount ordinarily provided by statute for the single count of conviction. The DOJ has shown no sympathy for employers harboring illegal aliens. Steps Alabama employer should take to avoid their own bad hire decision, and a hefty fine are as follows: 1) participate in E-Verify; 2) adopt an immigration verification policy and follow it; 3) have your current Forms I-9 audited for technical compliance; 4) train all your hiring manager on how to properly complete the new 2 page Form I-9; and 5) know who you will call when ICE or the DOJ knock at your door.

Tommy Eden is a Lee County native, an attorney with the local office of Constangy, Brooks & Smith, LLP and a member of the ABA Section of Labor and Employment Law and serves on the Board of Directors for the East Alabama SHRM Chapter. He can be contacted at teden@constangy.com or 334-246-2901 or www.alabamaatwork.com