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7-Eleven stores reopen after federal raids

An exterior view of the 7-Eleven in Port

An exterior view of the 7-Eleven in Port Jefferson Station on Old Town Road at 347, which remains open for business after a raid by federal agents. (June 18, 2013) Photo Credit: Daniel Brennan

The national management of the 7-Eleven chain of convenience stores Tuesday began reopening the 10 Long Island stores raided Monday by federal agents, according to officials.

The chain's management has replaced the stores' employees with its own supervisors and workers, a spokesman said.

"Some Long Island 7-Elevens were open today and all should be open on Wednesday. Employees from 7-Eleven Inc. were brought in to operate the stores," said Scott Matter, a spokesman for 7-Eleven.

The government plans to seize the franchise rights to the stores, claiming the profits are the product of crime.

Also Tuesday, a federal judge denied bail to one of the allegedly key people arrested by agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Most of those arrested were charged with operating a scheme in which people who lived here illegally were forced to work up to 100 hours a week, cheated out of about half their pay and forced to live in boardinghouses.

U.S. District Judge Sandra Feuerstein decided that Ummar Uppal, 48, of Islip Terrace, was too great a flight risk to be released on bail.

Feuerstein ruled after Uppal's attorney, Richard Haley of Islandia, argued that his client was just a part-time worker at a 7-Eleven in Islip Terrace. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Ott said in court and in court filings that Uppal, along with his brother, Azhir Zia, 49, of Great River, had controlled two of the 7-Elevens involved.

Uppal and most of the defendants were charged with harboring an illegal alien for profit, fraud and identity theft, court papers said.

To underline the argument that Uppal was a flight risk, Ott said the government had learned that Zia, the one person not arrested Monday and whom the government had targeted as a scheme leader, was in Pakistan.

Zia's name had been put on a government watch list so that U.S. Customs officials would stop him if he attempted to leave the country, Ott said.

Yet, Zia recently had traveled to Pakistan, Ott said, indicating that he had probably used a stolen or false identity. Prosecutors alleged the defendants used false identities to personally collect their employees' pay, then only passed on a fraction, pocketing the rest.

Robert Nardoza, spokesman for Eastern District U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch, said no former employees had been detained, but ICE was determining whether they were in the country legally and whether they could stay.

Also Tuesday, a nephew of one of the other alleged ringleaders arrested, but held without bail, defended his uncle.

Kabir Javaid, 25, of East Setauket, said the charges against his uncle, Malik Yousaf, 51, of South Setauket were "completely not true." Javaid described his uncle as a hardworking Pakistani immigrant who is "the perfect example of the American dream."

Javaid said Yousaf came to the United States at age 18 and started several local businesses, eventually becoming general manager of eight 7-Eleven stores in Suffolk County that employ at least 100 people, most of whom worked about 40 to 50 hours per week.

"These people were not working crazy hours," Javaid said. "Many of these people have worked for my family for years, not because they were forced, but because they loved working for my uncle."

"My uncle has a positive reputation in the community, so when people came looking for work, he helped," Javaid said.

Yousaf's attorney could not be reached for comment.

With Candice Norwood


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