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Press Release

Federal Grand Jury Returns Indictment Charging Columbia Heights Restaurant Owner In Labor Trafficking Case

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Minnesota

Acting United States Attorney Gregory G. Brooker today announced a federal indictment in an ongoing investigation charging PISANU SUKHTIPYAROGE, a/k/a “Pat,” 71, owner of a Thai restaurant in Columbia Heights, Minn., with one count of forced labor.[1] SUKHTIPYAROGE is scheduled to make an initial appearance on August 18, 2017, in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis, Minn.


According to the indictment and a law enforcement affidavit, on July 21, 2017, law enforcement received a report from the National Human Trafficking Hotline of a labor and sex trafficking victim. Law enforcement agents made contact with the victim who said he was brought by SUKHTIPYAROGE to the United States from the Dominican Republic with the promise of education opportunities and a better life for the victim and his family. Upon arrival to the United States, the victim reported that the arrangements changed dramatically. SUKHTIPYAROGE did not allow the victim to attend high school classes, he imposed a debt for the victim’s travel expenses, and forced the victim to work in his restaurant as well as engage in sexual acts. The victim lived in a basement storage room of the restaurant and received an hourly wage of approximately $0.78 per hour.


According to the indictment and a law enforcement affidavit, from October 15, 2015 through July 23, 2017, SUKHTIPYAROGE used coercion, physical threats, debt bondage, psychological abuse, intimidation and threats of legal process to maintain control of the victim as a forced laborer and as a victim of continued sexual assaults.


SUKHTIPYAROGE has also been charged in Anoka County with one felony count of third degree criminal sexual conduct and one felony count of labor trafficking.


The District of Minnesota is one of six districts designated through a competitive, nationwide selection process as a Phase II Anti-Trafficking Coordination Team (ACTeam), through the interagency ACTeam Initiative of the Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Labor. ACTeams focus on developing high-impact human trafficking investigations and prosecutions involving forced labor, international sex trafficking and sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion through interagency collaboration among federal prosecutors and federal investigative agencies.


Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Department of Labor Office of the Inspector General are leading the ongoing investigation with assistance from the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office.


Assistant U.S. Attorneys Melinda A. Williams and Laura M. Provinzino are prosecuting the case.



Defendant Information:



Maplewood, Minn.



  • Forced labor, 1 count






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United States Attorney’s Office, District of Minnesota: (612) 664-5600


The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Updated August 16, 2017

Human Trafficking