BOSTON (WWLP) – The owner of a Boston pizzeria chain was arrested Thursday morning for allegedly forcing an employee that lacked immigration status to work, threatening him with deportation as well as verbal and physical abuse.
Stavros Papantoniadis, 47, of Westwood, owner of Stash’s Pizza, has been charged with one count of forced labor. He will be detained until a detention hearing on March 20.
According to court documents, over the last 14 years Papantoniadis allegedly targeted victims that lack immigration status and employed them at lower wages and demanded they work six to seven days a week for more than 8-hours per day. Papantoniadis would also withhold wages.
Papantoniadis allegedly would also threaten employees with deportation and used violence to scare the victims.
He allegedly made derogatory comments to one victim about his religion and attacked him several times, pushing him on the floor, kicking him in the genitals, choked and slapped him which caused the victim to lose teeth. The victim stated he feared Papantoniadis and kept working for the pizza shop.
“Forced labor is a form of human trafficking. It is not a wage dispute. If someone is being compelled to work through the use of force, threats of force, or coercion, that is a federal crime. We allege that Mr. Papantoniadis compelled and threatened victims to work against their will using fear, violence and the threat of deportation,” said United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins. “The allegations in this case are horrific. Nobody has the right to violently kick, slap, punch or choke anyone, and certainly not an employer to an employee. This case illustrates the manipulative, violent and abusive tactics some employers utilize for their own greed and financial gain.”
“Stavros Papantoniadis is alleged to have underpaid, threatened, and physically assaulted his employees, creating a climate of fear,” said Matthew B. Millhollin, Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New England. “Homeland Security Investigations is committed to investigating labor trafficking and bringing to justice those who use force, fraud, or coercion to force people to work.”
“An important part of the mission of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General is to investigate allegations of labor trafficking involving the use of coercion or force. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate these types of allegations,” said Jonathan Mellone, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region.
Anyone that believes they were a victim in this case are asked to call 888-221-6023 or email USAMA.VictimAssistance@usdoj.gov.