Thatched Cottage Execs Get Prison for Slave Labor Ring
By Chris O’Neill
The former owner owner and manager of the Thatched Cottage restaurant and catering hall in Centerport were both sentenced to federal prison this week, for running a forced slave labor ring at the facility.
Roberto Villanueva, age 65, was sentenced to 6 years in federal prison for forced slave labor and conspiracy in his job as former manager of the Thatched Cottage catering hall in Centerport.
Ralph Colamussi, age 66, the former owner of the Thatched Cottage, was then sentenced on Friday to time served by the federal Court to the same charges.
Villanueva pled guilty in February 2020. He has been incarcerated since his arrest on 10 December 2017. Colamussi pled guilty in 2018, and has been incarcerated since his plea.
According to federal prosecutors and witnesses, Villanueva and Colamussi ran a slave labor operation, bringing-in and exploiting workers from the Philippines.
Workers from the Philippines were brought in on fraudulent H-2B visas and other visas. These workers were then forced to work 16 hour days, were significantly underpaid and were provided substandard living quarters – including “sleeping on bug-infested mattresses covered in garbage bags and not having heat or hot water” in spare storage rooms at the Thatched Cottage.
Villanueva, acted as the recruiter, and he and Colamussi coached the workers, after their original visas expired, on how to apply for student visas by having them fraudulently claim that they intended to attend school full time and had enough savings to do so.
Villanueva paid money into the workers’ accounts and then withdraw the funds once the visas were approved. When workers complained, he would threaten them with physical beatings or to report them to police and immigration authorities.
At sentencing, both Villanueva and Colamussi admitted to the Court that they acted in concert with each other, in running the slave labor operation.