NISKAYUNA – The owner of Thai Thai Bistro in Niskayuna was indicted by a grand jury Tuesday on labor trafficking charges.
Prosecutors allege 45-year-old Piyamas Demasi paid an immigrant from Thailand to work “off the books” in the restaurant’s kitchen.
Demasi allegedly proposed to sponsor the worker as “an expert chef” through a visa process that would result in a green card that would provide the worker with permanent lawful status in the U.S.
But the owner never followed through on those promises, prosecutors said.
The alleged inducement occurred from June 2017 to June 2018.
In a statement, Schenectady County District Attorney Robert M. Carney announced that a grand jury indicted Demasi on two counts of labor trafficking, grand larceny in the third degree, and five counts each of offering a false instrument for filing in the first degree and falsifying business records in the first degree.
Demasi was arraigned Tuesday in Schenectady County Court by Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Mark J. Caruso.
Demasi was ordered released on her own recognizance. The judge ordered her to turn in her passport.
Prosecutors said Demasi’s sponsorship of the under-the-table worker was based on the employee agreeing to pay for all of the costs associated with the visa process, and continuing to work for Demasi for two years after the process was completed — all of which is illegal.
Prosecutors allege that:
– After the worker made initial payments toward the visa process, Demasi made her work as a server, and not as a chef as Demasi had represented in the visa application.
– Demasi stopped paying wages to the worker altogether, forcing the worker to live off tips.
– Demasi then made the worker pay for legal bills related to the visa process.
– The business owner then requested an additional $10,000 for her efforts in sponsoring the worker’s visa application.
– Demasi then made the worker work solely in the kitchen without tips or wages.
The worker quit in January 2018, based on Demasi’s demand for $10,000 and because the worker wasn’t paid wages while she worked in the kitchen without tips, according to prosecutors.
“This case initiated with a complaint to the Niskayuna Police Department,” Carney said in a statement.
“Detective Mark Florell and now retired Detective Paul Hobson got our office involved,” Carney said. “Substantial assistance was provided by special agents from the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant District Attorneys John Carson and William Lemon presented the case to a grand jury. I commend all of them for their efforts to bring light to the defendant’s despicable behavior in allegedly exploiting the services of this young woman.”
Labor trafficking is an assault on basic human dignity, Carney said, and it deprives the government of taxes owed and confers an undeserved competitive advantage on the business committing the crime.
Lemon is prosecuting the case with assistance from Carson.
A message left with Demasi’s lawyer, Andrew Healey, wasn’t immediately returned Tuesday.
No one answered the restaurant’s phone Tuesday afternoon.