Agents from the Department of Homeland Security raided as many as 15 7-Eleven shops in New York and Virginia early Monday morning, according to multiple reports.
Nine store owners and managers have been arrested on charges of harboring and hiring undocumented immigrants, The New York Times reports. The store owners also stand accused of wire fraud and using fake Social Security numbers to pay their workers. An additional 40 7-Eleven franchises are being investigated in some form, the NYT reports.
Federal authorities said that the raids are a part of an investigation into human smuggling, identity theft and money laundering, according to the AP. The respective store owners allegedly helped smuggle the workers into the U.S. from Pakistan.
A majority of the simultaneous raids happened in Suffolk County, Long Island, according to PIX 11 News. The owners of the raided stores will be charged with harboring undocumented immigrants and not paying the minimum wage to their employees.
As of Monday morning, authorities had arrested approximately 20 people in total.
The probe is as "part of a nationwide sweep involving hundreds of agents," according to the Long Island Newsday. Federal authorities described the alleged situation as a "modern day plantation system," according to ABC News.
On Monday afternoon, 7-Eleven emailed the following statement to The Huffington Post:
7-Eleven, Inc. has cooperated with the government’s investigation. All of our franchise owners must operate their stores in accordance with laws and the 7-Eleven franchise agreement.
7-Eleven, Inc. will take aggressive actions to audit the employment status of all its franchisees’ employees.
7-Eleven, Inc. is taking steps to assume corporate operation of the stores involved in this action so we can continue to serve our guests.
We continue to cooperate with federal authorities in this matter.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to include details about the investigation and a statement from 7-Eleven.