More Arrests Expected in Immigration, Identity-Theft Probe

Published in CSP Daily News

One defendant claims wife, child taken "as leverage to keep him from talking"

By  Steve Holtz, Online News Director & Beverage Editor

BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- U.S. Department of Justice officials expect to make more arrests in the immigration-exploitation and identity-theft investigation disclosed in June. While refusing to discuss when or where the arrests would occur, sources close to the case tell CSP Daily News another two dozen convenience store franchisees could face charges in the near future.

Those charges are expected to be filed against one or two defendants at a time, rather than in a dramatic sweep like the one conducted June 17 in New York and Virginia that included the arrest of nine franchisees of 14 7-Eleven stores.

The word comes as some of the original defendants begin negotiating plea deals. According to court documents obtained by CSP Daily News, franchisee Tariq Rana is "engaged in plea negotiations" that could "result in a disposition of this case without trial."

During court proceedings this past week, according to sources, Rana claimed others taking part in the alleged immigration-exploitation and identity-theft scheme have threatened his family should he implicate others. He claimed his wife and child were taken from his home "as leverage to keep him from talking."

Rana is one of nine franchisees indicted June 17 in what officials call one of the country's largest cases of human trafficking. The arrested franchisees--Farrukh Baig, Bushra Baig, Malik Yousaf, Ramon Nanas, Azhar Zia and Ummar Uppal in Long Island, N.Y., and Zahid Baig, Shannawaz Baig and Tariq Rana in eastern Virginia--face multiple charges of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, concealing and harboring illegal aliens for financial gain, and aggravated identity theft. All the defendants remain in custody, having been denied bail.

Soon after the arrests, 7-Eleven Inc., Dallas, said it would conduct a review of franchisees' immigration records beginning July 1. The retailer has since offered no comment on the case.

Meanwhile, 7-Eleven Inc. has hired Republican lobbying powerhouse Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti to monitor the Washington debate over immigration reform, according to a report by O'Dwyers, which covers the public relations and marketing field. Bruce Mehlman, David Castagnetti and Alex Vogel are spearheading the 11-member lobbying team for the retailer, said the report.

By Steve Holtz, Online News Director & Beverage Editor
View More Articles By Steve Holtz