Charges: Trafficking victim forced to live under Twin Cities restaurant

The victim was forced to live beneath the restaurant, the charges say.

Charges filed in a federal court this week include some disturbing accusations against the owner of the Royal Orchid Restaurant, a Thai eatery in Columbia Heights.

The criminal complaint, filed Thursday in the U.S. District Court of St. Paul, says Pisanu "Pat" Sukhtipyaroge helped a young Dominican Republican man get to the United States with promises of a better life, only to subsequently exploit him.

Discovered by authorities in July following a tip from a human trafficking hotline, the victim – who comes from a "very poor family" and was 18 when he arrived in Minnesota – reported being forced to work in Sukhtipyaroge's restaurant for long hours and no pay, according to the charges.

But that was only the beginning of the accusations. 

Soon after the victim's arrival in the U.S., the complaint says, Sukhtipyaroge's promises (which included offers to help pay for school) proved false, and the young man was kicked out of his sponsor's house, forced to live in a bare storage room under Royal Orchid, and later, threatened and intimidated into performing numerous sex acts. 

Other discoveries 

Authorities say they executed a search warrant at Sukhtipyaroge's Maplewood home on Tuesday, and found a "lower level basement bathroom" whose walls were covered with pictures of young children "who appeared to be from Central America." 

Also in this bathroom were a computer, a TV, a used condom, two bags containing "what appeared to be pubic hair," and Ziploc bags with "boy/teen's underwear" inside. 

The court documents also say the defendant's computer contained images of possible child pornography. 

Sukhtipyaroge was arrested Tuesday on charges of third-degree criminal sexual conduct and labor trafficking. 

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