U.S. Justice Department officials said they expect to make as many as two dozen more arrests in the case of 7-Eleven franchisees who allegedly forced illegal immigrants to work in their convenience stores, CSP Daily News reported on Monday (July 29).
Nine 7-Eleven franchisees, who operated 14 stores, were arrested in a sweep on June 17 in New York and Virginia. They allegedly gave illegal immigrants from Pakistan and the Philippines forged identities, then threatened them with exposure unless they worked long hours in the stores for minimal pay.
Some of those arrested are now in the process of plea bargains. In a court hearing last week, one defendant claimed that others involved in the scheme have threatened his family if he implicates others, saying that his wife and child were taken from his home "as leverage to keep him from talking."
Officials said that any new charges in the case would probably be filed against one or two defendants at a time, rather than in a large group.
There has been no new comment from 7-Eleven, which is currently running the 14 franchises seized in the June 17 sweep. Shortly after the original arrests, the C-store giant said it would conduct a review of franchisees' immigration records beginning July 1.
But the fact that the arrests are apparently nowhere near finished is bad news for 7-Eleven, which is the only chain whose stores have been raided. C-stores are increasingly shifting to models that are proving very successful in competing with 7-Eleven's one-size-fits-all format, especially in their food offerings. Nor does it help that increasing numbers of franchisees are complaining that 7-Eleven is trying to push out the operators of less successful stores.
On the other hand, the chain's Japanese parent company, Seven & I, says it could triple the number of North American stores over the next few years. That won't make riding herd on increasingly restive franchisees any easier.
- See this CSP Daily News story
Did IT Cause 7-Eleven To Know Too Much?
7-Eleven Stores Seized By Federal Agents In Immigration Abuse Case
7-Eleven Accused Of Trying To Drive Out Franchisees, Resell Their Franchises