(STL.News) – Earlier today, in federal court in Central Islip, Yong Min Choe pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Joanna Seybert to conspiracy to conceal and harbor illegal aliens by employing undocumented immigrants 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.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Peter C. Fitzhugh, Special Agent-in-Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, New York (HSI), and John Grasso, Special Agent-in-Charge, Social Security Administration, Office of the Inspector General (SSA-OIG) announced the guilty plea.
In March 2004, Choe began operating the 7-Eleven store and, as part of the franchise agreement, 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.
“The defendant conveniently used his convenience store to harbor and exploit alien employees and steal wages,” stated United States Attorney 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.”
“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 HSI Special Agent-in-Charge Fitzhugh. “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.”
“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 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.”
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Public Integrity Section. Special Assistant United States Attorney Virginia Nguyen is in charge of the prosecution together with Assistant United States Attorney Elliot M. Schachner of the Office’s Asset Forfeiture Unit.