Several 7-11 stores investigated for smuggling in workers
The accusations of cruelty and mistreatment now span independently-owned 7-11 stores in eight states, from Illinois to Florida to New Jersey.
So far, nine owners and managers from Pakistan and the Philippines have been arrested for running what the feds are calling "modern-day plantations."
"The franchise owners that we have charged were engaged in a pattern of fraud and worker exploitation," Loretta Lynch, US Attorney Easter District, said.
Authorities say the owners were making millions of dollars exploiting illegal immigrants for more than a decade. The owners forced them to work 100-hour weeks but paid them for just a fraction of their time. They were even allegedly forced to live in 10x10 rooms inside cramped boarding houses and they had to pay rent.
"It was a terrible environment for these employees and they were ruthlessly exploited by the franchise owners," James Hayes, Special Agent Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said.
All the while, investigators say, the alleged ring leader and his wife were living in a mansion.
In order to evade authorities—and 7-11 corporate policies—police say the illegal workers were given stolen identification from people who had died. Police say IDs included everyone from a Coast Guard cadet to an 8-year-old child.
"The employees were threatened when they complained which was rare, with the threat of deportation with the threat of job loss," Hayes said.
Police have not implicated 7-11 Corporation, but police said the company lacked adequate checks and balances in its payroll department.
In a statement to ABC News, the company said it's cooperating with authorities and will "take aggressive actions to audit the employment status of all its franchisees' employees."