USCIS Assisted in Case Leading to Guilty Plea of Former Long Island Catering Hall Owner Charged with Forced Labor
Defendant Threatened Filipino Nationals Working at the Thatched Cottage with Deportation
NEW YORK – In Central Islip, New York, Ralph Colamussi pled guilty in federal court Wednesday before United States District Judge Denis R. Hurley, to 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.
Richard P. Donoghue, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of N.Y.; Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), N.Y.; Michael Mikulka, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), Office of Inspector General, N.Y.; and Thomas M. Cioppa, District Director, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), announced the guilty plea.
USCIS Fraud Detection and National Security (FDNS) officers from the Long Island Field office assisted HSI special investigators by conducting system checks and requesting records and petitions filed on behalf of the forced labor victims. USCIS FDNS also assisted the Department of Labor and the U.S. Attorney’s Office with the investigation and subsequent prosecution by providing expertise in determining visa fraud.
Colamussi formerly owned and operated the Thatched Cottage. At the plea proceeding, Colamussi admitted that workers were brought from the Philippines to the United States on H-2B visas that expired shortly after their arrival. 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. Colamussi 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.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Long Island Criminal Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles P. Kelly and Madeline O’Connor are in charge of the prosecution.