A Boston-area pizzeria owner has been arrested on federal charges of physically assaulting and verbally abusing an immigrant worker over a period of about 14 years, authorities announced Thursday.
Stavros Papantoniadis, 47, was arrested Thursday morning on suspicion of forced labor, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts reports. The owner of The Stash’s Pizza, whose name is Steve, targeted and underpaid undocumented workers, prosecutors said.
In a statement, US Attorney Rachael Rollins described the allegations against Papantoniadis as “heinous”.
“No one has the right to violently kick, punch, beat or strangle anyone, especially an employer against an employee,” Rollins said. “This case illustrates the manipulative, violent and abusive tactics some employers use for their own greed and financial gain.”
The Justice Department said it had created a climate of fear in its chain of pizza parlors, which has locations in Dorchester and Roslindale, Massachusetts. Papantoniadis previously had pizzerias in Norwood, Norwell, Randolph, Weymouth and Wareham.
The victim, identified in the indictment documents as “Victim 1,” worked for Papantoniadis from 2001 to 2015, officials said. During that time, Papantoniadis pushed the employee to the ground, kicked him in the genitals and broke his teeth on several occasions, the Justice Department said. He also beat and strangled the victim, prosecutors allege, and repeatedly made derogatory remarks about the man’s religious beliefs.
Papantoniadis threatened to kill the employee or report him to immigration authorities if he did not return to work, prosecutors said, prompting the victim to continue working for Papantoniadis.
When another employee planned to quit, Papantoniadis made a false police report on the employee, who was later apprehended and confronted by police, prosecutors said.
Papantoniadis also required its employees to work six to seven days a week, federal investigators found, often working more than eight hours a day without breaks or overtime.
If convicted, Papantoniadis faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The owner of the pizzeria appeared in court on Thursday morning and remains in custody pending a hearing on March 20.