NEW YORK - Some fourteen 7-Eleven franchises will be better known for their big fraud rather than their “Big Gulp”, according to Homeland Security, as franchise owners reportedly employed and exploited undocumented workers, including 18 Filipino nationals.
Nine 7-Eleven store owners and operators including Ramon Nanas, 49, a Filipino store manager from Great River New York, were indicted and charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud, stealing identities and harboring undocumented workers at 7-Eleven convenience stores located throughout Long Island, New York and Virginia.
US Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Loretta Lynch said that undocumented workers were hired using social security numbers of children and dead people and were paid miserably. Some were lucky enough to take home $300 USD to $400 USD a week working a hundred hours.
They were also set up in living arrangements that made them beholden to their employers, according to the indictment.
The Philippine Embassy in Washington DC and the Philippine Consulate in New York have been in touch with authorities regarding the Filipinos involved in the convenience store raids.
"Kaugnay din po natin ang mga lider ng komunidad sa Long Island, sa mga lugar kung saan nagtatrabaho yung mga kababayan natin," Deputy Consul General Tess Dizon-De Vega said, "Gusto po natin siguraduhin na lahat ng Pilipino na involved dito sa bagay na ito ay magkakaroon ng karampatang access sa hustisya at sa legal representation."
The Philippine Consulate confirmed that none of the Filipino undocumented workers were arrested, detained or charged.
"They’re considered victims, maaari pong kuhanan sila ng statement pero hindi naman po sila arestado," Dizon-De Vega said.
When asked whether the undocumented workers will testify against the store owners, Dizon-De Vega said that it remains to be seen as authorities are still talking to each victim, as they build their case.
While one of the Filipino victims is now represented by a private lawyer, the Philippine Consulate is also extending its assistance in connecting the rest with reputable legal representations from the community, if needed and requested by the victims.
If convicted, the defendants may face 20 years jail time on wire fraud conspiracy and alien harboring charges, as well as a consecutive two-year jail term for identity theft. In addition, all properties used to facilitate the harboring of illegal immigrants are subject to forfeiture.