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Long Island husband and wife 7-Eleven owners plead guilty to worker exploitation scheme

Farrukh Baig, left, and his wife, Bushra Baig,

Farrukh Baig, left, and his wife, Bushra Baig, are brought out of the couple's St. James home on June 17, 2013, by federal agents. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp

A Head of the Harbor husband and wife pleaded guilty Monday to being among the leaders of a conspiracy that exploited undocumented immigrant workers at their 7-Eleven stores on Long Island and in Virginia.

Farrukh Baig, 58, is expected to receive up to 121 months in prison, and his wife, Bushra Baig, 50, up to 12 months.

The Baigs agreed to forfeit $5 million in profit from the scheme, and repay the workers $2.6 million in wages.

They had mostly undocumented workers living here work as many as 100 hours a week, according to federal prosecutors. The couple also cheated the workers out of much of their pay in a scheme that took in more than $182 million in sales, prosecutors said.

Many victims were forced to live in housing owned by the conspirators, and had rent deducted from their pay, officials said. Agents from the Department of Homeland Security arrested the couple along with three others in June 2013.

Farrukh Baig pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens for financial gain and conspiracy to commit wire fraud before U.S. Magistrate Steven Locke at the federal court in Central Islip.

His wife, Bushra, pleaded guilty to harboring. Two of Mr. Baig's brothers -- Zahid Baig, 53, and Shannawaz Baig, 63, both of Virginia -- also pleaded guilty to harboring.

An associate of the four, Malik Yousaf, 52, of South Setauket, pleaded guilty to both the wire fraud and harboring charges. As part of the plea, the Baigs must give up franchise rights in 7-Eleven stores where they have a financial interest.

The case centered around a number of Long Island 7-Elevens controlled by the five, including in Cutchogue, Greenport, Islip, Nesconset, Port Jefferson Station, Sag Harbor, Selden, and Smithtown, plus others in Virginia, according to Eastern District federal prosecutor Christopher Ott.

The stores are now operated by 7-Eleven's headquarters.

Farrukh Baig said in court that from 2000 to 2013 he "agreed with others to employ and harbor undocumented aliens at 7-Eleven franchise stores located in Suffolk County, N.Y. We made the agreement to profit personally from the alien labor, and we concealed the agreement from the aliens."

Baig said the conspirators "agreed to transmit false and fraudulent payroll data from our stores . . . These wire transmissions enabled us to use the 7-Eleven trademark while also employing undocumented aliens at our profit."

They used stolen identities on the payroll records sent to 7-Eleven, Ott has said.

In a statement, the 7-Eleven company said that it has "cooperated fully with the government's investigation of this matter for more than three years . . . 7-Eleven will not tolerate this conduct in its franchisees."

James Hayes, head of Homeland Security Investigations in New York said, "This case serves notice to employers -- that they will be severely punished if they seek to profit on the back of an illegal workforce."

The defendants "dispensed wire fraud and identity theft along with Big Gulps and candy bars," Loretta Lynch, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District, said in a statement.

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