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Thread: NY- Suspects in Thatched Cottage forced labor case appear in court

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  1. #1
    Super Moderator Newmexican's Avatar
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    NY- Suspects in Thatched Cottage forced labor case appear in court

    Suspects in Thatched Cottage forced labor case appear in court

    Federal prosecutors say they continue to work on plea deals with the men accused of hurting and threatening workers recruited from the Philippines.


    Thatched Cottage located at 445 East Main St. in Centerport on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016. Photo Credit: Thatched Cottage located at 445 East Main St. in Centerport on Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016.

    By Sophia Chang
    sophia.chang@newsday.com @schangnewsday

    Updated February 2, 2018 6:09 PM


    The two men facing federal forced labor charges from mistreating workers at the Thatched Cottage event facility in Centerport continue to discuss plea deals, according to federal prosecutors.

    Former Thatched Cottage owner Ralph Colamussi and former manager Roberto Villanueva are charged with six counts, including forced labor, fraud in foreign labor contracting, visa fraud and conspiracies to commit forced labor. Both men are being held without bail.

    U.S. prosecutors have said from 2008 to 2013, the pair lured workers from the Philippineswhere Villanueva is a citizen — to Long Island with promises of lucrative work at the Thatched Cottage, only to pay them less than what they were promised and forced the workers to pay them to qualify for visa interviews and fraudulently obtain work visas.

    The recruited workers were also forced to care for Colamussi’s relatives and live on mattresses in the basement of his East Northport home. If the workers complained, left Colamussi’s home or made contact outside of their work, Colamussi and Villanueva threatened to report them to immigration authorities, hurt them physically and threatened the safety of their families in the Philippines, according to court documents.

    The Thatched Cottage has been closed since 2014 when Huntington officials condemned the property. Colamussi owned the facility for 26 years before filing for bankruptcy protection in 2014.
    Colamussi and Villanueva appeared in U.S. Magistrate Kathleen Tomlinson’s court in Central Islip Friday for administrative reasons.

    Villanueva’s attorney Edward Jenks of Mineola told Tomlinson that he will be joining Colamussi’s attorney Anthony LaPinta’s request for Assistant United States Attorney Charles Kelly to release evidence.

    “I have requested the Government to exchange all relevant documents in their possession regarding the criminal allegations, and to particularize the acts that each person is alleged to have committed in the indictment,” Hauppauge-based LaPinta said in a statement after the court appearance. “These requests are necessary to effectively defend the charges.”

    Kelly told Tomlinson that “we have had numerous plea deal discussions” with both defendants and that the discussions were ongoing.

    Their next court date is March 16 in front of Judge Denis R. Hurley.

    https://www.newsday.com/long-island/...ort-1.16501708
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    Federal judge orders former owner of Thatched Cottage detained

    Ralph Colamussi, who owned the shuttered catering hall in Centerport, faces forced labor and visa fraud charges. He is charged along with Thatched Cottage’s former manager.


    Ralph Colamussi, former owner of Thatched Cottage in Centerport, was ordered detained Tuesday while facing federal charges, including forced labor. Photo Credit: Ed Betz / Daniel Brennan


    By Valerie Bauman
    valerie.bauman@newsday.com @valeriereports

    Updated December 19, 2017 1:29 PM


    A federal judge on Tuesday ordered the former owner of the shuttered Thatched Cottage detained while facing federal forced labor and visa fraud charges in Eastern District of U.S. District Court in Central Islip.
    Ralph Colamussi, 61, and the Thatched Cottage’s former manager, Roberto Villanueva, 60, are charged with six counts, including forced labor, fraud in foreign labor contracting, visa fraud and conspiracies to commit forced labor.

    Both men have pleaded not guilty.

    Judge Denis R. Hurley on Tuesday extended the detention of Colamussi without bail for the duration of the trial. He has the right to apply for a bail hearing in the future, though his attorney declined to do so Tuesday.

    Villanueva, a citizen of the Republic of the Philippines who lived in Glen Head, had been ordered permanently detained at a previous court appearance.

    Prosecutors said they are in early talks with attorneys for both men about potential plea deals.

    A public defender representing Colamussi declined to comment Tuesday.

    Edward Jenks, a Mineola-based attorney representing Villanueva, said Tuesday that his client has more than a dozen former employees willing to testify to Villanueva’s character and kindness as an employer.

    The Thatched Cottage has been closed since 2014, when Huntington officials condemned the property on the waterfront along State Route 25A in Centerport. Colamussi owned the facility for 26 years before filing for bankruptcy protection in 2014.

    According to the indictment, Colamussi and Villanueva recruited potential employees in the Philippines between 2008 and 2013 with “false promises of jobs with overtime pay,” and then compelled the employees to pay money back to them to qualify for visa interviews.

    Prosecutors have said they have “overwhelming evidence, including a “wealth of documents” that were signed by Villanueva and Colamussi or used by them to get Philippine nationals to come to the United States and fraudulently obtain work visas. Prosecutors also said they have more than a dozen witnesses prepared to testify.

    According to the indictment, employees worked for pay lower than promised, went without overtime compensation and were required to do chores outside the scope of their jobs — including caring for Colamussi’s relatives and repairing the adjacent Jellyfish Restaurant, also owned by Colamussi.

    Their living conditions, according to the indictment, consisted of mattresses lined up in the basement of Colamussi’s East Northport home. Workers were required to return to the basement immediately after work.

    If the employees complained, left Colamussi’s home or made contact outside of their work, Colamussi and Villanueva threatened to report them to immigration authorities, hurt them physically and threatened the safety of their families in the Philippines, according to court documents.

    https://www.newsday.com/long-island/...ery-1.15519671

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