Ralph Colamussi, the former owner of Thatched Cottage catering hall in Centerport, pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges that include forced labor.
The site closed in 2014 after falling into bankruptcy but is scheduled to reopen in January under new ownership and a new name, Water’s Edge.
Colamussi and Roberto Villanueva, its former manager, were arrested in December and accused in the Central Islip federal court of several charges, including fraud in foreign labor contracting and fraudulent inducement of foreign workers to enter and remain in the country illegally.
Richard P. Donoghue, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York; Angel M. Melendez, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), New York; Michael Mikulka, Special Agent-in-Charge, U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, New York; and Thomas M. Cioppa, District Director, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), announced the guilty plea.
Colamussi 64, of Huntington 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.
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 United States Attorneys Charles P. Kelly and Madeline O’Connor are in charge of the prosecution.
He faces up to 20 years in prison, as well as restitution and a fine of up to $250,000.