The government has lowered the boom on a group of 7-Eleven franchise holders for hiring numerous illegal aliens, cheating them outrageously, stealing the identities of many citizens in the process, and netting millions of dollars from their crimes.
ICE calls it the largest worksite enforcement forfeiture in ICE history in a recent press release.
While the government's posture in the 7-Eleven case is clearly welcome, it is puzzlingly different from a very similar case that we wrote about earlier this year in which multiple-immigration-law violators got away with the slightest of slaps on the wrists and the main conspirator, Mannem Reddy, managed to keep his mansion in Great Falls, Va. Our report on the case included a photo of the $1.7 million property.
The more recent case involved Farrukh Baig, a dual citizen of the United States and Pakistan, his family, and a key employee. The five of them owned and operated 14 7-Eleven franchises in New York and Virginia. According to ICE, they hired scores of illegal aliens, equipped at least 20 of them with identities stolen from U.S. citizens, including that of an eight-year-old girl, seriously underpaid the illegals, and forced them to live in unlicensed group housing owned by the conspirators.
These five, and two others earlier, pled guilty to a series of federal crimes. The five also agreed to the forfeiture of $1.3 million worth of houses and to repay the workers $2.6 million in back wages.
There was nothing in the press coverage or the court documents on PACER (it is case 2:13-cr-00351-SJF-SIL) that indicates that any action will be taken against the group's former employees (the illegals) or against the parent 7-Eleven, Inc. Incidentally, the Baigs have also lost their franchises.
The conspirators face long prison sentences, but how that will turn out won't be known until sentencing early next year. The five are currently in detention; the Second Circuit turned down an appeal from one of the five saying that the district court had correctly decided that they were flight risks on the grounds of close continuing ties to Pakistan and the apparent availability of funding for such a flight.
What I find puzzling is why Baig and company are apparently being treated quite differently from Mannem Reddy and his fellow conspirators in the earlier case. (Reddy's the one with the fine house in Great Falls, Va.) The Reddys, too, pled guilty to a series of federal crimes involving illegal aliens and a chain of restaurants in Virginia, Maryland, and Georgia, but they got away with token penalties. (No one saw the inside of a jail, no one got deported, no homes were seized.) What's the difference?
A key set of potential variables starts with the well-worn concept of prosecutorial discretion; maybe Baig appeared to be a major malefactor to the attorneys in the Eastern District of New York, while Reddy created no such concern for the federal lawyers in Virginia. Another possibility is that Reddy had a better defense team (I have a slight acquaintance with his lead lawyer) than Baig did.
A third, worrying difference was in the nature of the major underlying crime. Reddy and his colleagues faked a series of H-1B visa applications allowing a series of "computer programers" to come to the United States — but they wound up being waiters. There were other charges against the Reddy camp as well. Baig did not create illegal aliens, as Reddy did, he simply exploited those already here.
Should not expansion of the illegal alien population (and then exploiting them) be more of a crime than simply exploiting illegals who are already here? That would suggest that Reddy would be punished more severely than Baig, but that was not the case. I guess the government does not see it that way; its leader, after all, may be about to amnesty millions of illegals.
Meanwhile, let's hope that the judge in the Baig case sends them all to jail and causes their deportation on their release.