The owner of a Boston-area pizzeria chain has been arrested on federal charges after nearly 14 years of physical and verbal abuse of an immigrant employee, officials said Thursday.
Stavros Papantoniadis, 47, was arrested Thursday morning on one count of forced labor, the Massachusetts District of Attorney’s Office reported. His Stash’s Pizza owner, who identified himself as Steve, was targeting illegal workers and working for underpaid workers, prosecutors said.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Rachel Rollins called the allegations against Papantoniadis “horrifying.”
“Nobody has the right to violently kick, slap, punch or strangle anyone, from employer to employee,” Rollins said. “This incident demonstrates the manipulative, violent and abusive tactics some employers use for their own greed and financial gain.”
The Justice Department said he created an atmosphere of terror at his pizzeria chains in Dorchester and Rosslyndale, Massachusetts.Papantoniadis previously had pizzerias in Norwood, Norwell, Randolph, Weymouth and Wareham. .
The victim, identified as “Victim 1” in the complaint document, worked for Papantoniadis from 2001 to 2015, officials said. During that time, Papantoniadis pushed the employee to the floor, kicked his genitals, and broke his teeth on various occasions, the Justice Department said. and repeated derogatory comments about the man’s religious beliefs.
According to prosecutors, Papantoniadis threatened to kill the employee or report him to immigration if he did not return to work, prompting the victim to continue working at Papantoniadis.
According to prosecutors, when another employee was planning to retire, Papantoniadis made a false police report about the employee and later stopped and turned himself in to police.
Papantoniadis also required employees to work six to seven days a week, and federal investigators found they often worked eight hours or more a day with no breaks or overtime pay.
If convicted, Papantoniadis could face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The pizzeria owner appeared in court Thursday morning and remains in custody pending a detention hearing scheduled for March 20.