Providence woman accused of making child-porn video
By Katie Mulvaney
Journal Staff Writer
Arunothai Asawabowornan, 33, of Providence, is arraigned Thursday.
PROVIDENCE — State police are accusing the owner of an Asian restaurant in Cranston of producing a pornographic video of an 8-year-old close family member.
The police charged Arunothai Asawabowornan Thursday morning with manufacturing, possession and transmission of child pornography after investigators said they tracked images of a pre-pubescent female to Asawabowornan’s 319 Indiana Ave. address in Providence.
Asawabowornan, who owns Arunothai Cuisine on Broad Street in Pawtuxet Village, appeared distraught and near tears as she stood before District Court Judge Elaine T. Bucci. A petite woman with straight dark hair, she said nothing as state police Detective Staci K. Shepherd detailed the allegations.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children alerted state police in October it had received a tip about video featuring images consistent with child pornography being uploaded to the Internet from a Providence e-mail address, Shepherd said. The department’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force traced the address to 319 Indiana Ave., and learned it belonged to Asawabowornan.
Investigators found additional video and images depicting the 8-year-old, and discovered that Asawabowornan had inappropriately photographed the child, posted the images on the YouTube video-sharing Internet site. She then e-mailed them to individuals in foreign countries, according to the police.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the police are looking into whether Asawabowornan accepted money for the images, according to the police.
Asawabowornan defended herself late Thursday. “Right now,” she said in a phone call, “I am innocent….” She said it was a misunderstanding.
An initial examination of the girl indicated she had not been sexually abused, Capt. James O. Demers said. The child was being further evaluated at Hasbro Children’s Hospital, and was placed in custody of the state Department of Children, Youth and Families.
Judge Bucci set bail at $10,000 with surety, or $1,000 cash. She ordered Asawabowornan not to use the Internet or have unsupervised contact with any child under age 18. She faces up to 15 years in prison, a $5,000 fine, or both. She was referred to the public defender’s office.
Asawabowornan opened the restaurant in 2007 with her partner John Garos and financial backer Michael Tourigny. Asawabowornan earned an undergraduate business degree from the University of The Thai Chamber of Commerce and a master’s degree in business management from the University of Massachusetts, according to the restaurant’s website.
It lists her previous professional experience as four years in hospitality management; two years at a four-star hotel in Bangkok; and three in Asian restaurants in the United States. It appears that Asawabowornan is in the country legally from Thailand, Demers said.