What to Know
- The former owner of a catering hall on Long Island pleaded guilty to forced labor Wednesday
- Ralph Colamussi, who owned the Thatched Cottage in Centerport, recruited workers from the Philippines for the hall
- After their visas expired, he threatened to report them to immigration if they didn't do the work he wanted them to do, prosecutors said
The former owner of a catering hall on Long Island recruited workers from the Philippines, then threatened to report them to immigration officials if they didn’t do the work he wanted them to do, prosecutors said.
Ralph Colamussi, 64, who owned the now-shuttered Thatched Cottage in Centerport, pleaded guilty to forced labor Wednesday, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York said.
According to the attorney’s office, Colamussi brought employees from the Philippines on H-2B visas to work at the Thatched Cottage. An indictment unsealed last year claimed Colamussi recruited them using “false promises of jobs with overtime pay, as waiters, servers, cooks, chefs and food preparation.”
After the workers’ visas expired, the Huntington resident “coached” the workers as they filled out student visa applications that falsely said they were planning to go to school full-time and had enough money to support themselves, prosecutors said.
Colamussi himself deposited money into their bank accounts to make it look like they had money for school, but took the money out once their visas were approved, according to the attorney’s office.
He also told workers he’d report them to immigration authorities when they “objected to performing certain jobs, working consecutive shifts or not being paid promptly,” according to prosecutors.
The Huntington resident could face up to 20 years in prison, along with a fine of as much as $250,000, the attorney’s office said.