Former owner and manager of Long Island catering hall pleads guilty to forced labor charges
NEW YORK — A Long Island man pleaded guilty Wednesday to forced labor of employees. This following the investigation and 2017 arrest by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in New York, with assistance from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General (DOL-OIG).
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.
This case is being prosecuted by Eastern District of New York’s Long Island Criminal Division. The maximum potential sentences in this case are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.