Pizza shop owner accused of abusing workers denied bail

Mar 22, 2023, 7:03 AM | Updated: 10:26 am

BOSTON (AP) — A Boston pizza shop owner accused by federal authorities of abusing employees who were not legally in the U.S. has been ordered held without bail by a magistrate judge who cited the defendant’s “history of violence and threats.”

“At this juncture, the evidence against him appears strong,” Magistrate Judge Judith Dein wrote in Stavros Papantoniadis’ detention order Tuesday. “The government has met its burden of proving by clear and convincing evidence that no condition or combination of conditions of release will reasonably assume the safety of any other person and the community.”

Papantoniadis, 47, who also goes by Steve, faces one charge of forced labor but allegedly victimized at least seven employees, according to court documents.

He currently owns two Stash’s Pizza locations in Boston, but previously owned several other pizza parlors in suburban communities.

Prosecutors allege he hired people in the U.S. illegally, made them work long hours, underpaid them, verbally and physically abused them, and threatened to inform immigration authorities or police if they complained. He hit one worker in the mouth, breaking some teeth, and on another occasion kicked that worker in the genitals so hard that the man needed surgery, prosecutors said.

“While their circumstances vary, in several cases there is seemingly persuasive evidence that the defendant threatened victims, engaged in physical altercations and/or improperly called the police, thereby putting the victim at risk for negative immigration consequences,” the judge wrote.

Carmine Lepore, Papantoniadis’s lawyer, said many of the allegations are years old and were fabricated by disgruntled employees who had “huge incentive” to lie because they are being allowed to remain in the U.S. during the investigation.

During a detention hearing Monday, a manager of one of the Stash’s Pizza locations who has worked for Papantoniadis since 2008 said he was unaware of any abuse and praised his boss’ character.

Papantoniadis, of Westwood, is also being investigated for possible pandemic relief loan fraud, prosecutors said.

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Pizza shop owner accused of abusing workers denied bail