Ex-owner, ex-manager of Thatched Cottage accused of exploiting immigrant workers

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CENTRAL ISLIP -

The former owner and a manager of a catering hall in Centerport are accused of exploiting immigrant workers.

For years, the Thatched Cottage was known as a beautiful venue for weddings and other special occasions, but federal prosecutors say its former owner Ralph Colamussi was running a ruthless illegal labor trafficking operation inside.

According to the six-count indictment, Colamussi and former manager Roberto Villanueva engaged in a scheme, using "deception, intimidation and manipulation" to lure immigrants from the Philippines to Long Island with false promises of jobs with overtime pay.

Prosecutors say the defendants then forced the immigrants to pay thousands of dollars back to them  to qualify for visa interviews.

According to prosecutors, Colamussi and Villanueva brought scores of immigrants to work at the Thatched Cottage between 2008 and 2013. Those immigrants were paid low or no wages, according to prosecutors.

Prosecutors say Colamussi also forced them to care for his father and perform construction work at his other restaurant called the Jellyfish.

They also say Colamussi made the workers live in the basement of his home in East Northport and work for him off the books.

According to court papers, when the workers complained, Colamussi "repeatedly threatened them with physical violence or deportation.”

In one instance, Colamussi allegedly "threatened a worker with a knife," after prosecutors say the worker refused to help burn down the Thatched Cottage.

And when that worker fled, Colamussi allegedly called him and said, "I'm going to find you and kill you."

Prosecutors tell News 12 that at least a dozen of Colamussi's former immigrant workers are ready to testify against him.

Colamussi pleaded not guilty to charges of forced labor and visa fraud.

Villanueva will be arraigned Tuesday.
 

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