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Guilty Plea of Piyamas Demasi to Human Trafficking

District Attorney

SCHENECTADY, NY (March 11, 2022) Schenectady County District Attorney Robert M. Carney announced that today, in Schenectady County Court before Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Mark J. Caruso, Piyamas Demasi, a 45-year-old woman and owner of Thai Thai Bistro and Karma Bistro in Niskayuna, NY, pled guilty to one count of Labor Trafficking, a Class D felony.  The Labor Trafficking charge to which Ms. Demasi pled guilty to is the top count of a thirteen-count indictment. The indictment charged her with two counts of Labor Trafficking, one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, which are all Class D felonies, and five counts each of Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree and Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree, which are all Class E felonies. 

It is alleged that Ms. Demasi hired a female immigrant from Thailand to work in her restaurant Thai Thai Bistro.  After the victim began working, she was duped into paying the defendant thousands of dollars so that the defendant would sponsor the victim as an expert Thai chef through the process to get her a green card (which would provide the victim with permanent lawful status in the United States).  However, the defendant would sponsor the victim only if the victim paid for all the defendant’s costs she claimed to be associated with the visa process.  The defendant also required that her victim agree to continue working for the defendant an additional 2 years after the visa process was completed.  The defendant knew that these conditions were illegal.

After the victim made initial payments, the defendant made her work as a server (not as a chef as the defendant had represented in the visa application) and stopped paying wages to the victim altogether, forcing her to live off of tips alone.  Despite that, the defendant nevertheless made the victim pay for legal bills related to the visa process and demanded an additional $10,000 for defendant's efforts in sponsoring the visa application.  The victim stopped working for the defendant in January 2018 after being forced to work without wages or tips for a period.  When the defendant did pay the victim, she did so in cash and failed to report the victim on her payroll and employment filings made with New York State authorities.  In so doing, the defendant concealed her illegal arrangement with the victim while also avoiding her tax obligations. 

In pleading guilty to Labor Trafficking, the defendant admitted that between June 2017 and June 2018, she compelled or induced another person to engage in labor by means of intentionally requiring that the labor be performed to retire, repay, or service a real or purported debt that the defendant has caused by a systematic ongoing course of conduct with intent to defraud such person. 

Ms. Demasi pled guilty to secure an agreed upon range of sentencing possibilities to be imposed by Hon. Mark J. Caruso, Acting Schenectady County Court Judge. Sentencing is scheduled for May 20, 2022.  Under the agreement, the maximum sentence that may be imposed is 1 to 3 years in state prison; the minimum possible sentence is 5 years of probation.  Under the agreement, the Court has the authority impose a sentence that consists of some local jail time and probation.  Should the sentence imposed include a term of probation, the agreement requires the defendant to pay for an annual review by a forensic accountant of the defendant’s businesses’ books and records to ensure compliance with New York State tax and labor laws, which the defendant has previously violated.  Last, under the terms of the plea agreement, the defendant agreed to make restitution of more than $8,500 to the victim and $4,000 to the NYS Department of Taxation and Finance and NYS Department of Labor (representing unpaid tax liabilities, unemployment insurance contributions, fines, and penalties).

The criminal case against Ms. Demasi was initiated by a complaint by the victim to the Niskayuna Police Department.  Now retired Niskayuna Detectives Mark Florell and Paul Hobson contacted the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office for assistance.  Substantial investigative assistance was provided by Special Agents from the United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General and Homeland Security Investigations.  The Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office urges anyone who is or knows someone who may be a victim of labor trafficking or any illegal employment conditions or requirements to file complaints with the New York State Department of Labor or the U.S. Department of Labor without fear of adverse immigration consequences.

At the time of arraignment District Attorney Carney stated, “labor trafficking is an assault on basic human dignity, it deprives the government of taxes owed and confers an undeserved competitive advantage on the perpetrator.  For these reasons, cases such as this deserve and will continue to receive a commitment of prosecutorial resources.”

Based upon the defendant’s guilty plea, District Attorney Carney further stated, “Schenectady has a proud history of advancing and protecting the rights of workers and I see this first of its kind labor trafficking conviction as being of that tradition. Ms. Demasi exploited one of today’s most vulnerable workers, an immigrant who believed that her dream of permanent residence here, in the country in which she went to high school and college, depended upon complying with the demands of her employer. There may be other people similarly victimized who may be afraid to come forward. She bravely did and through this prosecution we were able to make her financially whole and hopefully send a signal to others facing similar extortion demands from unscrupulous employers that they should speak up. I commend Assistant District Attorneys Lemon and Carson for their work in exposing this crime and obtaining accountability against its perpetrator."

Assistant District Attorneys William M. Lemon and SVU Bureau Chief John Carson are prosecuting the case The defendant is represented by attorney Andrew Safranko.  For further information, contact ADA Lemon at 518-388-4364, x 4142.