Columbia Heights Man Federally Charged Under Human Trafficking Charges

Image Credit: Anoka County Sheriff's Office

COLUMBIA HEIGHTS, Minn. — A Columbia Heights small-business owner is facing criminal charges on the federal level after authorities determined he brought a young man into the country for forced labor.

Pisanu Sukhtipyaroge, 71, has been charged with one count of forced labor in U.S. District Court located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Sukhtipyaroge also faces one count of labor trafficking of an individual 18 or older and one count of third degree criminal sexual conduct on the state level.

As reported by Alpha News, Sukhtipyaroge befriended the family of a young Dominican man so he could sponsor the minor to the United States to get an education.

Instead, Sukhtipyaroge forced the young man to work in his Mendota Heights Thai restaurant and perform sexual acts with him.

The young Dominican man, who was not named in the complaint, was able to contact authorities and gather evidence against Sukhtipyaroge.

Sukhtipyaroge was arrested by local authorities on August 1, where a search of his house found pornography, potentially involving minors.

It appears Sukhtipyaroge used child-sponsoring charities to meet with prospective victims and their families.

The young Dominican man told authorities that Sukhtipyaroge took an annual trip to have sex with minors around the globe. Authorities found letters and photos from Children International thanking Sukhtipyaroge for meeting with the children that he sponsored. The criminal complaint notes,  “Indeed, Sukhtipyaroge possessed both a U.S. passport and a Thai passport, and his travel history demonstrates multiple trips to foreign countries known as locations for child sex tourism.”

Children’s International told Alpha News that they were monitoring the case closely, but noted they had stringent policies to protect children and their families.

“Children International takes child-protection very seriously. Some of our child-safety protocols include the following: We run our sponsors through a sex-offender database before they are able to travel to the field to meet their sponsored child,” Brittany Gelbach, the Public Relations Manager told Alpha News.

“Additionally, we run all sponsors through a sex-offender database once a week even if they do not have plans to travel to the field. If a sponsor is identified in the sex-offender database, their sponsorship is discontinued. All of our sponsor visits occur in-country and are supervised at all times. Sponsors are not left alone with children or their families. All communications between a sponsor and a child and their family go through Children International’s headquarters and field offices. I want to emphasize that Children International does not provide visas for children or youth to travel to the U.S. to visit sponsors, study or find work. At this time, we have no reason to believe any children or youth from our program were affected, but we will continue to follow the investigation,” Gelbach said.

Sukhtipyaroge is expected to make his first court appearance on August 18.

Update August 17, 2017 at 3:05 p.m. — An earlier version of this article detailing additional charges in an ongoing case incorrectly stated the location of the alleged crime occurred in Mendota Heights, Minnesota. This version of the article has been corrected. The business and location of the alleged crime is in Columbia Heights, Minnesota. 

Preya Samsundar

Preya Samsundar was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN. She graduated from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities this Spring with a B.A. in Political Science and Sociology, with a minor in Strategic Communications. Preya has previously worked on several State Campaign Races.