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7-Eleven stores raided in illegal immigrant scam

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Nine owners and managers of 7-Eleven stores across Long Island (New York) and in Virginia were charged on Monday of harboring and hiring dozens of illegal immigrants and paying them using sham Social Security numbers.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and federal prosecutors in Brooklyn were also investigating some 40 other 7-Eleven franchises in New York City and elsewhere, the New York Times reported. The probe ranks as one of the largest criminal immigrant employment investigations ever conducted by the Justice and Homeland Security Departments.

The charges and two indictments were announced at a news conference on Monday in New York City. Officials at the news conference said the defendants hired more than 50 illegal immigrants, provided them with more than 20 identities stolen from United States citizens, including children and dead people, put them up at houses owned by the defendants and stole substantial portions of their wages. Most of the immigrants were from Pakistan,

“From their 7-Eleven stores the defendants dispensed wire fraud and identity theft, along with Slurpees and hot dogs,” Loretta E. Lynch, the United States attorney in Brooklyn said. “In bedroom communities across Long Island and Virginia, the defendants not only systematically employed illegal immigrants but concealed their crimes by raiding the cradle and grave to steal the identity of children and even the dead.”

According to Lynch, the defendants “ruthlessly exploited their immigrant employees,” forcing them to live in unregulated boardinghouses and “creating a modern-day plantation system.”

The charges against the owners and managers included wire fraud conspiracy and aggravated identity theft, the Times said.

Scott Matter, a spokesman for 7-Eleven, said the parent company was aware of the arrests and seizures and “has been cooperating with federal authorities during their investigation.” Matter said the company would have no comment until it learned more about the case, the Times reported.

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Retail loyalty programs bloom

BY Dan Berthiaume

Cincinnati — Retail loyalty programs have seen some impressive growth since 2011, according to results of the latest Colloquy Loyalty Census. In 2013, department stores achieved 70% growth in loyalty program memberships since the 2011 Colloquy Census, far surpassing the 26.7% rate of growth in loyalty programs across all sectors tabulated in the 2013 census. The number of department store loyalty memberships is 193.9 million.

Other retail sectors experience above-average loyalty growth rates in the past two years include drug stores (45% growth to 142.4 million memberships). Although the specialty retail sector had a slightly below average loyalty program growth rate of 26%, its 360.5 million membership count is the highest among all retail verticals and third among all industries, behind airlines and financial services.

The average U.S. household holds 21.9 memberships in loyalty programs but is active in 9.5 of those. In the 2011 census, the numbers were 18.4 and 8.4. The 2013 census shows that total membership in U.S. loyalty marketing programs across all sectors is 2.647 billion, a 26.7% increase over the 2.089 billion memberships in 2011.\

“As the economy slowly breathes new life, loyalty programs have gained increased awareness,” said Jeff Berry, Colloquy research director. “We expect continued growth as increasingly sophisticated programs revitalize engagement with existing members and attract new participants.”

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Saks launches new creative campaign

BY Staff Writer

New York — Saks Fifth Avenue is introducing a new creative campaign called “Look” that the retailer said will focus on its reputation as a place of discovery and be delivered to consumers via media including advertising, catalogs, shopping bags, direct mail, press initiatives, in-store events, digital marketing, social media and visual displays.

Officially starting tomorrow, June 18, the campaign will feature “Look What’s New” store outposts featuring emerging designers, “Making of a Look” beauty tutorials in stores, “Look Closer” features focused on craftsmanship, and a forward-looking trends. A catalog also called “Making of a Look” will offer advice from leading designers that will also appear in store displays and online communications. Updated packaging will launch in August and the campaign is expected to last into next year.

“Saks is not just a place to buy things, it’s the ideal place to look for what’s new and what’s trending,” said Terron Schaefer, executive VP of Saks Firth Avenue. “We seek to earn and build our customers’ confidence by focusing on the personal experience of discovery.”

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