Thai Thai Bistro owner avoids jail in trafficking case


SCHENECTADY — The owner of the recently closed Thai Thai Bistro avoided jail time Wednesday for human trafficking involving a Thai chef, and was instead sentenced Wednesday to five years probation and community service, according to her lawyer, Andrew Safranco.

Under the plea deal, Piyamas “Pui” Demasi could have been sentenced to one to three years in prison for the felony charge she previously admitted to Schenectady County Court Acting Judge Mark Caruso.

The agreement gave Caruso the discretion to impose a sentence consisting of jail time or jail and probation.

Thai bistro owner Piyamas “Pui” Demasi was sentenced to five years probation on Wednesday in a labor trafficking case related to her now-closed Niskayuna business.

Schenectady County District Attorney

The labor trafficking offense was one of 13 charges Demasi initially had to face in connection with the crimes authorities claimed he committed against a Thai immigrant she hired to work as a chef at the Thai Thai Bistro in Niskayuna from June 2017 to June 2018. Demasi, 46, is also from Thailand.

The agreement requires Demasi to pay for an annual review by a forensic accountant of his company’s books and records to ensure that it complies with state tax and labor laws.

On Wednesday, Safranko said it had already paid more than $8,524 in restitution to the victim, including $3,557 to state tax and finance. and $444 to the state Department of Labor.

“We believe this was the appropriate resolution, Pui has repaid all damages in this matter and looks forward to opening a new restaurant and venturing out in the near future,” he added. “We appreciate that the judge used his discretion and we believe he sentenced her in the appropriate manner and fashion.”

Prosecutor William Lemon asked Caruso for probation, as well as putting Demasi in jail for at least two weeks, at the same time she made the victim work for free. He said a jail sentence was warranted “in view of the defendant’s systematic and ongoing cause of fraudulent conduct in which she financially exploited the victim.”

Demasi announced on Facebook that the restaurant will close on April 30 and that she plans to open an Asian market in Saratoga Springs next year. The business would offer prepared meals, bao-bun ice cream and bubble tea.

Although the defendant did not address the court on Wednesday, she wrote a letter to the judge outlining her struggles to achieve the American dream.

Authorities allege that when the woman started working, Demasi forced her to pay thousands of dollars to sponsor her as an expert Thai chef so that she could obtain a green card, which would allow her to obtain permanent legal status in the United States.

Demasi demanded that the victim pay all costs that he believed were related to the visa process, and agree to continue working for the defendant for two years after the visa process was completed, which the employee knew otherwise. to the law, officials said. .

Once the victim made the initial payments, Demasi made her work as a waitress, not a chef as Demasi had portrayed him on the visa application, and also stopped paying salaries, forcing her to live only tips.

Despite this, Demasi made the victim pay the legal costs of the visa process and demanded an additional $10,000 for her to take care of the visa formalities. In 2018, the victim quit working for Demasi after being forced to work for a while without tip or pay.

When Demasi paid the victim, it was in cash and Demasi failed to report it on state pay and employment records, meaning Demasi hid his illegal arrangement with the victim while avoiding to pay taxes, prosecutors said.

The victim eventually filed a complaint with the Niskayuna police, assisted by agents from the federal Departments of Labor and Homeland Security.

Thai Thai Bistro was founded in downtown Schenectady in 2013 by Demasi, who was a longtime waitress at his successor restaurant, Bangkok Bistro.

Demasi was forced to move the restaurant to Niskayuna in 2016 after its location in the historic Nicholaus Building at State Street and Erie Boulevard was damaged when, she said, the adjacent building was being demolished.

She then sued Schenectady and several other defendants for negligence.

In the summer of 2019, Demasi opened Karma Bistro at ShopRite Plaza, the same large shopping complex where Thai Thai Bistro is located. The Karma Bistro is also closed.


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