A Northport man pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiring to hire undocumented immigrants at his Brentwood 7-Eleven to pay them substandard wages and enrich himself, federal prosecutors said.
Yong Min Choe, 55, faces up to 10 years in prison and has agreed to forfeit more than $1.3 million in assets, the proceeds of the crime, said a statement from Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
Choe, also known as Jason Choe, pleaded guilty "to conspiracy to conceal and hire illegal aliens" before U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert in federal court in Central Islip, the statement said.
Prosecutors said Choe hired undocumented immigrants between 2004 and 2019. He began operating the 7-Eleven in March 2004, officials said. Choe allowed the immigrants he hired to use false social security numbers, and was able to pay them low wages, prosecutors said.
As part of his franchise agreement, Choe agreed to follow state and local labor laws, officials said.
“The defendant conveniently used his convenience store to harbor and exploit alien employees and steal wages,” Donoghue said. “This Office, together with our law enforcement partners, is committed to vigorously enforcing immigration and labor laws that protect our borders as well as the workplace.”
Choe’s Manhattan-based attorney Jeffrey Lichtman said his client was “happy to put this behind him” and had been remorseful.
“He’s paid a very large price, not only financially, but he’s also facing significant prison time,” Lichtman said. “Like many small business owners who employ unskilled laborers, the only people he could get are people who are here illegally. It’s no excuse.”
Choe’s sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 11, Lichtman said.
John Grasso, special-agent in charge with the Social Security Office of the Inspector General, said: “Today’s guilty plea illustrates our commitment to pursuing those who intentionally misuse Social Security numbers to circumvent immigration and employment law.”