Authorities uncovered a wide-ranging scheme in which the owners of more than a dozen 7-Eleven convenience stores in New York and Virginia hired illegal immigrant workers, gave them fake identities, stole their wages and forced them to live in boarding houses, effectively creating a "modern-day plantation system."

Nine managers and owners were charged with stealing identities, conspiring to commit wire fraud, and concealing and harboring illegal immigrants. What the accused did was to steal the identities of children, deceased persons and even a Coast Guard cadet, then use that information to receive compensation from 7-Eleven's corporate payroll department. When the money arrived, the managers and owners would keep large chunks of it for themselves, then also force the workers to pay them rent in cash to live in houses they owned. Joseph D'Amico, Superintendent of the New York State Police, which helped work on the case, said that these conditions made the workers "completely beholden" to their employers.

United States Attorney Loretta Lynch released a statement saying, in part:

The defendants not only systematically employed illegal immigrants, but concealed their crimes by raiding the cradle and the grave to steal the identities of children and even the dead. Finally, these defendants ruthlessly exploited their immigrant employees, stealing their wages and requiring them to live in unregulated boarding houses, in effect creating a modern-day plantation system.

Immigration and Customs agents also executed about 30 warrants in other states, so the full outlines of this story are not yet clear. The exploited workers were mostly from Pakistan and the Philippines.

7-Eleven is cooperating with the investigation but has not yet released a formal response to the allegations.

[Reuters, ABC]