Opas Sinprasong pleads guilty to running his Siamese Plate restaurants like slave ships

When it came to taking advantage of his employees, Opas Sinprasong, who owned several Boulder-area Siamese Plate restaurants, appears to have been an expert. Sinprasong pleaded guilty to harboring illegal aliens and failing to pay taxes -- offenses likely to result in prison time, a $766,000 fine and deportation to his native Thailand -- for what a plea agreement on view below describes as the systematic exploitation of workers he treated like indentured servants.

The Opas Sinprasong plea agreement notes that from 2001 through 2008, the owner sponsored Thai nationals' admission to the U.S. as "specialty workers" under an investor program -- the idea being that the employees "possessed specialized skills that were essential to the efficient operation of his business," the document states. But their status as immigrants essentially put them at Sinprasong's mercy, and he certainly appears to have taken advantage of the opportunity.

According to the plea agreement, the contracts signed by employees required them to pay a "bond" of 50,000 Thai baht (approximately $1,500) and held workers liable for a penalty of 600,000 Thai baht (around $18,000) for violating its terms. Staffers also had to pay a $3,000 "visa preparation fee -- all to prevent workers from ditching him for other work once they hit America, Sinprasong claimed. Gee, why would they want to do that?

Sinprasong paid workers "a salary based upon the number of shifts worked rather than an hourly wage," the agreement continues, with the money doled out via non-payroll checks from which the aforementioned fees were deducted. He also failed to pay employees overtime, even though he required them to put in between 26 and 32 hours of OT per week, and also "paid them with payroll checks that reflected only 80 hours worked in each two-week period rather than the actual hours worked by the Thai employees, which typically was between 132 and 144 hours in the two weeks," the document maintains. The balance was paid with separate checks from which Sinprasong didn't withhold taxes -- and why should he, since he apparently didn't mention their existence to the IRS.

Oh yeah: Sinprasong also sponsored ten spouses of Thai employees, and while their visa applications said they "did not intend to work in the United States and they were not authorized to work," the document says, they did indeed work at his restaurants. He paid them under the table and provided housing for them, presumably deducting this "benefit" from their wages as well.

Page down to read the entire plea agreement and a synopsis courtesy of the U.S. Attorneys Office:

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts

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