By Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

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In the largest criminal immigration forfeiture in ICE history, five franchisees and operators of 7-Eleven stores located on Long Island, New York and in Virginia pleaded guilty to committing wire fraud and concealing and harboring undocumented workers employed at their stores. When sentencing hearings are held in federal court at a later date, the defendants also face up to 10 years in prison.

The defendants owned, managed, and controlled a total of 14 franchised 7-Eleven stores. They allegedly hired dozens of undocumented immigrants to work at the stores, provided them with stolen identities of U.S. citizens, housed them at residential properties owned by the defendants and stole their wages. In all, the defendants' activities generated over $182 million in proceeds which they split among themselves.

As part of their plea agreements with the government, the defendants will:

- forfeit the franchise rights to 14 franchised stores - ten in New York and four in Virginia;
- forfeit five houses in New York worth more than $1.3 million; and
- pay the sum of $2,621,114.97 in restitution for the back wages they stole from their workers.

ICE took the opportunity to warn employers that this case should serve as an example to employers who "seek to profit on the back of an illegal workforce". This record-setting forfeiture is a reminder of last year's record-setting penalty of $34 million against Infosys Limited which resulted from that company's settlement with ICE-HSI for visa fraud and I-9 violations. Be sure to follow my blog, and stay up to date on these headline-grabbing forfeitures and penalties.

Click here for a copy of the ICE press release.