The Philippine Consulate General in New York is “in the dark” about the identities of 18 Filipinos who were among 50 undocumented workers allegedly exploited for over 13 years at several 7-Eleven stores on Long Island, N.Y. and Virginia, the Filipino Reporter has learned.

This despite the Consulate’s repeated requests from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the names of the Filipino workers and possible access to them, according to Consul Bong Cariño (pictured above), head of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals unit.

“We surmise that since the case is under the control of the Prosecutor’s Office and they treat the case as exploitation of labor workers, they probably would want to protect the workers’ privacy and keep their identities from the public,” Cariño told the Reporter.

“Even the Filipino workers themselves never tried to contact the Consulate,” he added.

“The Consulate has already sent word through the prosecutors that we’ve been trying to reach them so we can offer them consular assistance. But so far, no one has come forward.”

Cariño, nonetheless, explained that there’s really nothing unusual if a Filipino citizen refuses to be identified or contacted.    

“But they can always contact us anytime they want...if they want us to pay them a visit and if they need our assistance to ensure that their rights are protected,” he added.

The Consulate is confident that the Filipino workers are in good hands, according to Cariño.

“The justice system in America is oriented towards the victims and there are many benefits if you are a victim of a crime,” he said.

“Usually, the victims of trafficking get help from the government so they can stay in the country legally while their case is pending.”

Meanwhile, Cariño said the Consulate is also monitoring the lone Filipino arrested and indicted in the case identified as Ramon Nanas, 49, a Filipino citizen, from Great River, N.Y.

He was among the 7-Eleven owners and operators — mostly American citizens of Pakistani descent — who were nabbed during the 7-Eleven raids exactly a month ago.

“From what we understand, Mr. Ramon Nanas is just a long time assistant and not a manager or owner,” Cariño noted.

Cariño said the Consulate will attend the first court hearing of the case scheduled this week.

About 10 individuals were indicted on June 17 with conspiring to commit wire fraud, stealing identities and concealing and harboring illegal immigrant employed at 14 7-Eleven, Inc. franchise stores.

“Through this scheme, the defendants, who owned, managed and controlled 14 7-Eleven franchise stores during the course of the conspiracies, 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, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York in Brooklyn.

“They tried to conceal the immigrants’ employment by stealing the identities of about two dozen people — including those of a child, a dead person and a Coast Guard cadet — and submitting the information to the 7-Eleven payroll department,” the office said.

This is one of the largest criminal immigrant employment investigations ever conducted by the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), officials said.

The government has moved to forfeit the franchise rights to 10 7-Eleven stores in New York and four 7-Eleven stores in Virginia. 

In the indictments, the government has also moved to forfeit five houses in New York worth over $1.3 million.

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