Forced Labor – Ralph Colamussi, of East Northport, NY pleaded guilty to charges of forced labor of employees at the Thatched Cottage, a catering and wedding venue in Centerport, New York. When sentenced, Colamussi faces up to 20 years in prison, as well as restitution and a fine of up to $250,000. Colamussi formerly owned and operated the Thatched Cottage. At the plea proceeding, he admitted that workers were brought from the Philippines to the United States on H-2B visas that expired shortly after their arrival here. Once their H-2B visas expired, Colamussi coached workers how to apply for student visas by fraudulently representing that they intended to attend school full-time and had sufficient resources to support themselves during school. He admitted that at times, he deposited funds into the workers’ bank accounts to give the appearance of ample resources and then withdrew the funds once the student visas were approved. Colamussi further admitted that when workers objected to performing certain jobs, working consecutive shifts or not being paid promptly, he threatened to report them to immigration authorities.
Sex Trafficking – Blakemore – who goes by the street name “Macknificent” – may have trafficked hundreds of women across the United States between 2011 and 2018. To enforce the rules, Blakemore allegedly slapped, punched, choked, and kicked his victims, and occasionally burned them with cigarettes. After one victim expressed a desire to leave his organization and have a family, Blakemore allegedly body-slammed her into an air conditioning unit, leaving her bruised, bloodied, and with severe back injuries. The victim told agents she believed Blakemore wanted to “make an example” in front of the other victims so they’d be afraid to talk about a life outside his control. Blakemore allegedly appointed certain victims “group leaders” tasked with managing the trafficking organization’s business, including posting commercial sex ads online and booking women’s cross-country travel to engage in commercial sex as far away as New York and Hawaii. Blakemore even encouraged women to tattoo his street name on their bodies to signal their loyalty to him. If convicted, Blakemore faces a sentence of up to life in prison. This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melanie Smith, Nicole Dana and Cara Foos Pierce, Northern District of Texas.
Domestic Servitude – Satish Kartan and his wife Sharmistha Barai hired workers from overseas to perform domestic labor in their home in Stockton, CA. In advertisements seeking workers on the internet and India-based newspapers, the defendants made false claims regarding the wages and the duties of employment. Then, once the workers arrived at the defendants’ Stockton residence, Kartan and Barai forced them to work 18 hours a day with limited rest and nourishment. Few of them were paid any wage. The defendants kept their domestic workers from leaving, and induced them to keep working for them, by threatening them, by creating an atmosphere of fear, control, and disempowerment, and at times by physically hitting or burning them. The defendants also threatened several other victims to coerce them to keep working, including by telling the victims they would report them to police or immigration authorities if they tried to leave. Throughout the victims’ time in the defendants’ home, they were deprived of sleep and food. Each defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Human trafficking fugitive on ICE's top 10 list extradited to US from Mexico – Raul Granados-Rendon, 30, was extradited to the United States on Jan. 27 and was arraigned at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. Granados-Rendon faces a 21-count indictment charging him with racketeering and racketeering conspiracy involving predicate acts of sex trafficking by force, fraud and coercion; sex trafficking of minors; interstate prostitution; alien smuggling and related offenses. As set forth in extradition affidavits and other court papers, between October 1998 and June 2011, members of the Granados sex trafficking organization, including Raul Granados-Rendon and others, illegally smuggled young women into the United States where they were forced to work as prostitutes in New York City and elsewhere in the United States. The organization collected profits from the victims’ activities. When victims refused to work or resisted members of the organization beat and sexually assaulted them, and threatened the victims’ family members in Mexico, including the victims’ children. HSI special agents have identified and rescued over 20 additional victims, all Mexican nationals, and arrested over a dozen additional traffickers or smugglers, all members or associates of the Granados family. Several victims were sexually assaulted by their traffickers, while others were physically assaulted. All the victims said the traffickers threatened to harm their family members.