The supervising manager of a number of 7-Eleven stores on Long Island was denied bail Monday by a federal judge who said he was a flight risk, according to officials.
Malik Yousaf, 51, of South Setauket, was one of the nine key owners or managers of 14 convenience stores on Long Island and in Virginia arrested a month ago on charges of taking part in an $182 million scheme to cheat employees out of wages to which they were entitled.
Yousaf, who put up a bail package of almost $2 million in property, had roots in the community and was not going to flee, his attorney Robert Del Col, of Smithtown, argued before the judge's ruling. The property involved eight houses on Long Island and in New Hampshire either owned by Yousaf, his relatives or friends.
But U.S. District Judge Sandra Feuerstein declined to release Yousaf pending future hearings after Assistant United States Attorney Christopher Ott, of the Eastern District, said the government believed some of the houses, including Yousaf's own home, were purchased with proceeds from the alleged criminal activity and that the government planned to forfeit them.
Ott also said that the government had opened an investigation into allegations that some of the defendants were attempting to prevent witnesses from testifying in the case. The defendants, including Yousaf, are charged with conspiracy, wire fraud and harboring aliens.
Eight of the defendants, including Yousaf, have been held in jail since their arrests. It is believed one fled to Pakistan before the arrests, officials have said.
The charges revolve around claims that the defendants hired employees who worked 100- hour weeks, but were paid for only a fraction of that time while the defendants pocketed the rest. The employees, many of whom were in the country illegally, also had to live in housing owned by the defendants, and employee's rent was subtracted from their already shorted pay, officials have said.
Yousaf was the first of the defendants to offer a bail package since the arrests.
After the hearing, Del Col said his client would appeal the ruling, saying that his client had done nothing wrong. As to the government's claim of witness tampering, Del Col said, "It's smoke" without substantiation.
Ott, the Eastern District prosecutor, declined to comment afterward.