MN Restaurant Owner Used Charities to Meet Sex Trafficking Victim

sex trafficking, sex, trafficking, business owner
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COLUMBIA HEIGHTS, Minn. — Less than one month after a Maple Grove restaurant owner was charged in connection to a sex trafficking set-up in the Twin Cities, another business owner has been formally charged in an unrelated case in the United States District Court located in St. Paul.

Pisanu Sukhtipyaroge, 71, also known as Pat, was arrested on August 1, and charged with third-degree criminal sexual conduct and labor trafficking. Sukhtipyaroge is the owner of the Royal Orchid Restaurant in Columbia Heights, Minnesota.

Sukhtipyaroge, used charity organizations to meet young men and their families according to court documents.

Targeting poor families, Sukhtipyaroge met the victim, a young man from the Dominican Republic and his family, befriending the family over a three year period. It was after the three year period that the victim’s family allowed Sukhtipyaroge to sponsor their son and bring him to the United States so he could attend school.

But things took a turn for the worst when he arrived. Sukhtipyaroge forced the victim to work in his restaurant for $0.78 per hour and forced him to live in a storage room in the basement of the restaurant that had no bathroom or windows. Sukhtipyaroge also forced the victim to engage in a sexual relationship with him, threatening to report him to the police or immigration officials if he refused.

In a bathroom in the basement of the building authorities found, “a used condom, two bags containing what appeared to be pubic hair, and Ziploc bags that contained boy/teen underwear,” along with photos of young children from Central America, pornography, including videos of Sukhtipyaroge engaged in sexual acts potentially with a minor, according to court documents.

While authorities have not released the name of the charity in which Sukhtipyaroge met and brought the victim to the United States through, court documents identify Children International as another charity organization that Sukhtipyaroge used to meet children and their families.

The criminal complaint describes pictures of young children throughout the house that participated in the Children International program. Letters from Children International, including letters thanking Sukhtipyaroge for visiting the children he sponsored in their country were found.

The victim told authorities that Sukhtipyaroge travels yearly to have sex with young boys in foreign countries. Authorities corroborated the statements in the criminal complaint stating, “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.”

An official from Children International told Alpha News that they have a stringent vetting process when accepting sponsors.

“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.

While the U.S. Attorney’s Office could not confirm whether or not Sukhtipyaroge met the victim through Children International, they did tell Alpha News that federal charges against Sukhtipyaroge would come within the next week.

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.