7-Eleven has insisted it will start an “aggressive” investigation into the hiring policies of its franchisees after store owners and managers were charged over allegations they exploited immigrant staff.

According to US federal authorities, owners of 7-Eleven franchises in New York and Virginia established a “modern day plantation system”, providing undocumented immigrant workers with stolen identities and forcing them to work 100 hours a week for a fraction of their wages.

Ten stores in New York and four in Virginia were raided yesterday (17 June) as part of the federal investigation. Nine people, including store owners and managers, were charged with conspiring to commit wire fraud, identity theft and harbouring illegal immigrants.

Responding to the accusations, a spokesperson for 7-Eleven emphasised the company has “co-operated” with the government investigation of “independent 7-Eleven franchisees”.

“All of our franchise owners must operate their stores in accordance with laws and the 7-Eleven franchise agreement,” the spokesperson insisted. “7-Eleven will take aggressive actions to audit the employment status of all its franchisees’ employees.”

The spokesperson added 7-Eleven is “taking steps to assume corporate operation” of the stores involved in order to minimise disruption to customers.

“We continue to cooperate with federal authorities in this matter,” the spokesperson emphasised.