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April 29, 2020New York, NY, United StatesLabor Exploitation

7-Eleven franchisee pleads guilty to harboring illegal aliens

NEW YORK — Following an investigation by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and subsequent prosecution from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York (EDNY), Yong Min Choe, 55, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens by employing them at his 7-Eleven franchise in Brentwood, New York. When sentenced, Choe faces up to 10 years’ imprisonment as well as a fine of up to twice the value of the gross gain. Additionally, Choe agreed to forfeit more than $1.3 million in assets that represent proceeds of the offense.

In March 2004, Choe began operating the 7-Eleven store in Long Island and agreed to abide by state and local labor laws. Between 2004 and November 2019, Choe hired individuals who did not have authorization to work in the United States and allowed those employees to use false social security numbers and other personal identifying information. As a result, Choe was able to pay his employees sub-standard wages and enrich himself.

“Over the course of 15 years, Choe knowingly hired individuals who had no legal authorization to work in the U.S., then took advantage of their illegal status by paying them inadequate wages with long hours,” stated Peter C. Fitzhugh, special agent in charge of HSI New York. “HSI and its law enforcement partners are committed to protecting our communities from the abuses of corrupt business owners seeking to gain an illegal advantage and make a steep profit off the backs of others.”

“The defendant conveniently used his convenience store to harbor and exploit alien employees and steal wages,” stated United States Attorney Richard P. Donoghue. “This Office, together with our law enforcement partners, is committed to vigorously enforcing immigration and labor laws that protect our borders as well as the workplace.”

“Today’s guilty plea illustrates our commitment to pursuing those who intentionally misuse Social Security numbers to circumvent immigration and employment law,” stated SSA-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge John Grasso. “I want to thank the other participating agencies for their efforts in investigating and prosecuting this case, and their partnership in our work to protect the integrity of the Social Security system.”

HSI’s Worksite Enforcement Unit oversees ICE’s worksite enforcement strategy, which focuses on protecting America’s critical infrastructure. The strategy’s goal is to reduce the demand for illegal employment and protect employment for the nation’s lawful workforce. The unit accomplishes this through the prosecution of employers, Form I-9 inspections, fines and the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers employee verification program. View the Worksite Enforcement page for more information. The government’s case is being handled by the EDNY’s Public Integrity Section.