A Boston-area pizzeria chain owner has been arrested on federal charges that he physically assaulted and verbally abused an immigrant employee for a period of about 14 years, authorities announced Thursday.
Stavros Papantoniadis, 47, was apprehended Thursday morning on one count of forced labor, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts reports. The Stash’s Pizza owner, who goes by Steve, targeted undocumented workers and underpaid them, prosecutors said.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins described the allegations against Papantoniadis as “horrific.”
“Nobody has the right to violently kick, slap, punch or choke anyone, and certainly not an employer to an employee,” Rollins said. “This case illustrates the manipulative, violent and abusive tactics some employers utilize for their own greed and financial gain.”
The Justice Department said he created a climate of fear at his chain of pizzarias, which has locations in Dorchester and Roslindale, Massachusetts. Papantoniadis previously had pizzerias in Norwood, Norwell, Randolph, Weymouth and Wareham.
The victim, identified in charging documents as “Victim 1,” worked for Papantoniadis from 2001 to 2015, officials said. Over that span, Papantoniadis pushed the employee to the floor, kicked him in the genitals and broke his teeth on different occasions, the Justice Department said. He also slapped and choked the victim, prosecutors allege, and repeatedly made derogatory comments about the man’s religious faith.
Papantoniadis threatened to kill the employee or report him to immigration authorities if he didn’t return to work, prosecutors said, prompting the victim to continue working for Papantoniadis.
When a different employee planned to quit, Papantoniadis made a false police report about the worker, who was later pulled over and cited by police, according to prosecutors.
Papantoniadis also demanded his employees work six to seven days per week, federal investigators found, and often worked more than eight hours per day without breaks or overtime pay.
If convicted, Papantoniadis faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. The pizzeria owner appeared in court on Thursday morning and remains in custody pending a detention hearing set for March 20.