SCHENECTADY, NY (July 13, 2021) Schenectady County District Attorney Robert M. Carney announced that a Schenectady County Grand Jury has indicted Piyamas Demasi, a 45-year old woman and owner of Thai Thai Bistro and Karma Bistro in Niskayuna, NY, in a thirteen count indictment, charging two counts of Labor Trafficking, one count of Grand Larceny in the Third Degree, each of which are 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. Ms. Demasi was arraigned on July 13, 2021 in Schenectady County Court by Acting Schenectady County Court Judge Mark J. Caruso.
The charges against the defendant are merely accusations, and, as such, the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
It is alleged that, among other things, between June 2017 and June 2018, the defendant 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. Specifically, it is alleged that Ms. Demasi hired a female immigrant from Thailand to work in the kitchen of her restaurant Thai Thai Bistro. Ms. Demasi paid the worker “off the books” and in cash. After she was hired, Ms. Demasi proposed sponsoring the worker as an expert Thai chef through a visa process that would result in a green card (which would provide the worker with permanent lawful status in the United States). However, Ms. Demasi would only do so if the worker paid for all of the costs associated with the visa process and continue working for Ms. Demasi for 2 years after the process was completed—all of which is illegal.
After the worker made initial payments toward the visa process, Ms. Demasi made her work as a server (and not as a chef as Ms. Demasi had represented in the visa application) and stopped paying wages to the worker altogether, forcing the worker to live off of tips alone. After this time, Ms. Demasi made the worker pay for legal bills related to the visa process. It is further alleged that Ms. Demasi then requested an additional $10,000 for her efforts in sponsoring the worker’s visa application. Ms. Demasi then made the worker work solely in the kitchen without tips or wages. The worker quit working for Ms. Demasi in January 2018 based on the $10,000 demand and Ms. Demasi’s failure to pay the worker any wages while she worked in the kitchen without tips.
During the worker’s employment at Thai Thai Bistro, Ms. Demasi paid the worker in cash and failed to report the worker on her payroll and employment filings made with New York State authorities, thereby concealing the worker’s employment and avoiding any associated taxes owed to New York State.
District Attorney Carney stated, “This case initiated with a complaint to the Niskayuna Police Department. Detective Mark Florell and now retired Detective Paul Hobson got our office involved. Substantial assistance was provided by Special Agents from the United States Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General and Homeland Security Investigations. Assistant District Attorneys John Carson and William Lemon then 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, 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 commitment of prosecutorial resources.”
Assistant District Attorney William M. Lemon is prosecuting the case with assistance from Special Victims Unit Bureau Chief Assistant District Attorney John Carson. For further information, contact ADA Lemon at (518) 388-4364.