A Head of the Harbor man was sentenced Monday to more than 7 years in federal prison for exploiting immigrant workers living in the country illegally, at the string of 7-Eleven stores he ran on Long Island and in Virginia.
Farrukh Baig, 59, was sentenced to 87 months by U.S. District Court Judge Sandra Feuerstein in Central Islip. His wife, Bushra, 51, was sentenced to the three months she had already spent in custody and was released.
Several others face charges in the case.Story7-Eleven owners admit to exploiting staffStoryFeds: Stores 'exploited' immigrantsOpinionEditorial: Forceful warning not to exploit immigrants
About 50 people packed the courtroom in Central Islip to show their support for Baig, who had admitted that he helped steal the identities of 25 people and used their information to create phony payroll records at 7-Eleven corporate headquarters.
When payroll checks were returned to the stores, Baig and others would cash them and give only a fraction of the money to the employees, who sometimes worked 100 hours a week and lived in quarters rented from Baig.
Most of the five defendants and the victim employees were of Pakistani or Filipino origin.
When Baig began to apologize to the judge for his criminal conduct, she cut him off. "Why don't you turn around and tell them?" the judge said, referring to the people in the audience.
Baig turned to the crowd and began to say, "I apologize for what I did," but he was interrupted by several audience members who said aloud: "We love you," and "We all love you."
An angry Feuerstein shushed the crowd, and Baig continued to apologize for his "mistakes." The judge cut him off again and said he had built a good life "on the backs of victimized workers."
Baig, who owned 14 franchise stores on Long Island and in Virginia, was ordered to make restitution of $2.6 million for the lost wages of the workers.
A spokesman for 7-Eleven has said the company cooperated fully with authorities and requires franchise owners to operate in accordance with the law.
Defense attorney Joseph Conway, of Mineola, said in a presentencing memo that Baig was "the epitome of a hardworking, loving and charitable family man," and that his crimes were an aberration.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Ott said in a memo that while Baig might not have been the most culpable of the defendants, he was part of the scheme's "leadership."
"Moreover, unlike the cooperators in this case, Farrukh Baig and his family tightened their ranks and fought this prosecution for more than a year," the prosecutor wrote.
Another man, Malik Yousaf, 54, of South Setauket, had the "day-to-day managerial responsibility" for the undocumented workers, the prosecutor said. Yousaf pleaded guilty Sept. 25 to wire fraud and harboring illegal aliens. He faces sentencing June 25.
Yousaf and Farrukh Baig pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for profit. Bushra Baig pleaded guilty to harboring.