The three were the only Virginians in a group of nine, with the rest hailing from Long Island, New York.
Zahid Baig, Shannawaz Baig and Tariq Rana are charged with conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal immigrants for financial gain, concealing and harboring illegal immigrants for financial gain and aggravated identity theft.
Zahid and Shannawaz chose to have their case heard in Norfolk when it goes to trial.
Tariq Rana is from Pakistan and lives in Chesapeake. The judge told him to consult with counsel and advised him that he could have authorities contact the embassy in Pakistan.
All three have been granted a court appointed attorney. They'll be back in court Thursday at 2:00.
They are all owners, managers and controllers of fourteen 7-Eleven franchise stores who allegedly hired dozens of illegal immigrants, equipped them with more than 20 identities stolen from United States citizens, housed them at residences owned by the defendants, and stole substantial portions of their wages.
The Department of Justice states that court filings show that from 2000 to the present, the defendants employed more than 50 illegal immigrants at the 14 stores.
The victims hail from seven states and range in age from eight to 78-years-old. They include a child, three dead people, and a Coast Guard cadet.
Four of the stores were located in Virginia.
Someone with knowledge of the investigation told NewsChannel 3 that the locations are:
725 London Blvd., Portsmouth, VA
1510 Brambletown Ave., Norfolk, VA
1088 W. 26th Street, Norfolk, VA
4701 Taylor Road, Chesapeake, VA
Ten other stores were located in New York. The franchise rights of the stores will be forfeited. Another 30 stores were inspected across the country.
Additionally, 10 houses in New York will be forfeited.
The indictments, arrests and seizures are the result of one of the largest criminal immigrant employment investigations ever conducted by the Department of Justice.
The local defendants will be presented for arraignment today at the federal court in Norfolk.
In a statement, from 7-Eleven, the company said:
“Today the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn announced it had filed two indictments related to alleged wrongdoing by independent 7-Eleven franchisees. 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.”