March 16, 2023
Federal agents on Thursday arrested the owner of Stash's Pizza, 612 Blue Hill Ave., on a charge of forced labor, for preying on what he allegedly called "f---ing immigrants," whom he'd hire and then allegedly beat, scream at, and force to work up to 80 hours without overtime and sometimes without any pay at all, on threat of having them deported.
As a result of two sets of beatings, one employee had to have surgery on his testicles and have all his teeth removed, a Homeland Security agent writes in an affidavit laying out the case against Stavros "Steve" Papantoniadis, 47, of Westwood. Papantoniadis also repeatedly called the man - an immigrant without papers from Northern Africa - "a f---ing Muslim" to his face. He punched another worker in the chest in front of other employees, the affidavit continues.
He made one man work 365 days straight and made other workers stay at the job for 11 or 12 hours a day, without overtime and without breaks - and he'd watch them on surveillance cameras to make sure they never sat down, the affidavit states. When one worker told Papantoniadis he was taking the next day off, the owner yelled at him, then followed him down Rte. 1 in Norwood and called in a false 911 call that the man had just hit his car and sped off, the affidavit states. Norwood Police initially charged the man with leaving the scene of an accident.
He focused his hiring on people here without papers from Central America, North Africa and Brazil, the affidavit states. When any workers asked for back wages or time off, he'd often raise their immigration status. He'd do the same with workers who couldn't take it anymore and told him they were quitting - often while adding a threat that he knew where they lived.
"PAPANTONIADIS treated the undocumented employees very poorly, verbally abusing them and screaming at them. He would make them work more than 12 hours per day, 7 days per week. The undocumented employees would often complain to PAPANTONIADIS about not being paid for all of the hours they work. In response, PAPANTONIADIS would say, 'Tell them to go f--- themselves.' "
The criminal investigation grew out of 2017 investigation by the federal Department of Labor into wage issues at Stash's and Papantoniadis's other pizza places - Stash's in Norwood and Onset , Boston Pizza Company in Randolph and Norwell and Pacini’s Italian Eatery in Weymouth. The affidavit says he's currently only operates the Stash's in Dorchester and Rosalindale; he's closed or sold the other places.
After Papantoniadis signed a consent decree in 2019 to pay back wages, Homeland Security began to re-interview the named workers, and to launch a broader investigation that led to today's arrest. The affidavit states that in exchange for their cooperation, Homeland Security worked to obtain a change in immigration status to let the workers stay here.
Papantoniadis used violence and threats to keep the most seriously injured worker, "Victim 1" in the affidavit, at work at the Dorchester Stash's for nearly 14 years, the affidavit states:
"Victim 1 worked 12 hours per day, 7 days per week. He worked between 84 and 119 hours per week. Victim 1 worked even when he was sick. He is a practicing Muslim, and he was not permitted to stop working for Ramadan. Nor did he take a vacation or leave the United States once he began working for PAPANTONIADIS. Victim 1 did many different tasks in the restaurants, including making pizzas. At some point during his tenure with Stash's Pizzerias, he worked as a manager.
"PAPANTONIADIS made derogatory comments about Victim 1's religion. PAPANTONIADIS would call Victim 1 a 'f---ing Muslim.' ...
"PANATONIADIS assaulted Victim 1 several times. Victim 1 was afraid of PAPANTONIADIS.
"Victim 1 missed a day of work. The next day, PAPANTONIADIS pushed him and caused him to fall to the floor. PAPANTONIADIS then called Victim 1 a 'fucking Muslim.'
"On a day in or around 2007, when Victim 1 arrived at the restaurant, another employee asked Victim 1 to go to the basement to speak to PAPANTONIADIS. When Victim 1 got to the basement, PAPANTONIADIS kicked Victim 1 in the genitals. Victim 1 stated that the pain was so bad that he started to cry. Victim 1 then took the bus to Massachusetts General Hospital. PAPANTONIADIS called Victim 1 and told him that if he did not return, he would kill Victim 1. Victim 1 had surgery on his genital region. After the surgery, Victim 1 had a catheter implanted. Victim 1 stated that this injury continued to cause him pain until at least 2021. During the 3-week recovery period, PAPANTONIADIS would call Victim 1 and threaten to kill him and call immigration if he did not return to work. PAPANTONIADIS also threatened to call the police. Victim 1 believed that PAPANTONIADIS knew police officers because police officers often visited the restaurant and PAPANTONIADIS gave them free food.
"After the incident during which PAPANTONIADIS kicked Victim 1 in the genitals, PAPANTONIADIS entered the kitchen of one of the Stash's Pizza locations with 5 or 6 friends. PAPANTONIADIS then slapped Victim 1 in the face and broke his glasses.
"On another occasion, PAPANTONIADIS hit Victim 1 in the ear and choked him so hard that his tongue stuck out of his mouth. Victim 1 fell to the floor and PAPANTONIADIS continued to choke him. The assault left marks on his neck and PAPANTONIADIS broke his glasses again. PAPANTONIADIS yelled, 'You f---ing Muslim,' while he was choking Victim 1.
On another occasion, PAPANTONIADIS hit Victim 1 on his ear and mouth. PAPANTONIADIS broke his upper and lower teeth. Victim 1 had to go to the dentist and have all of his teeth removed. Victim 1 now has dentures."
The affidavit describes the alleged treatment of a worker at the Roslindale Stash's:
"PAPANTONIADIS told Victim 6 that he (PAPANTONIADIS) killed someone in a car accident. Victim 6 stated that PAPANTONIADIS 'put it out there' that he had spent time in jail. As a result, PAPANTONIADIS told Victim 6 not to mess with him.
"PAPANTONIADIS sexually harassed and abused Victim 6 during his tenure at Stash's Pizzerias. Victim 6 became friends with Victim 2, who worked at the Norwood location. Victim 2 was gay and PAPANTONIADIS became very angry when he learned that Victim 2 and Victim 6 were friends. PAPANTONIADIS began yelling at Victim 6 and calling him the homophobic slur 'faggot.' PAPANTONIADIS treated Victim 2 the same way.
"In another sexual harassment incident that occurred at the Roslindale location, PAPANTONIADIS and two other men, who were not employees, were sitting at a table in the front of the restaurant. When Victim 6 went to the front of the restaurant to clean the tables, PAPANTONIADIS asked Victim 6, 'If I c-- into this glass, would you drink it?' PAPANTONIADIS pointed to a glass and told Victim 6 he would pay him if he drank semen from the glass.
"PAPANTONIADIS was physically abusive to other employees. On one occasion at the Roslindale location, PAPANTONIADIS threw a hot pizza and box at a Brazilian employee because he did not like the way the employee had made the pizza. Victim 6 also saw PAPANTONIADIS throw pens and knives at employees on other occasions. PAPANTONIADIS's behavior made Victim 6 very afraid of PAPANTONIADIS and he feared that PAPANTONIADIS would hurt him. PAPANTONIADIS was always angry.
"PAPANTONIADIS also touched him with a frequency that made him uncomfortable. PAPANTONIADIS would approach Victim 6 from behind, grabbing Victim 6's buttocks and pinching his nipples. Repeatedly, Victim 6 told PAPANTONIADIS to stop this behavior. The unwanted touching became worse during the last few weeks that Victim 6 worked at the Roslindale location.
"While Victim 6 was working at Stash's Pizza's Roslindale location, Victim 6 again decided to quit. PAPANTONIADIS became very angry when he learned that Victim 6 wanted to quit. PAPANTONIADIS yelled at Victim 6, threw papers in his face, and threatened to call the police and immigration authorities. Victim 6 believed that PAPANTONIADIS would call the police or immigration authorities to report him. PAPANTONIADIS had previously told Victim 6 that he called immigration authorities on another Brazilian employee who was subsequently deported. 30 PAPANTONIADIS would often mention this to Victim 6, especially when PAPANTONIADIS was angry.
"Shortly after Victim 6 disclosed his desire to quit, PAPANTONIADIS told Victim 6, 'if you quit, I know your address.' Victim 6 stated that he was afraid of PAPANTONIADIS because he (PAPANTONIADIS) did in fact know where he lived.
According to the affidavit, Papantoniadis was not lying when he said he killed somebody in a car - he was convicted of motor-vehicle homicide in Suffolk Superior Court in 1998.
The affidavit describes the treatment of two people who witnessed the way the victims in the case were treated:
"During the time that Witness B worked at Stash's Pizzerias, she was addicted to heroin. As a result, PAPANTONIADIS would call her a 'crackhead' and say that 'she would never be anything.' One day when she was working in the front of one of the restaurants, PAPANTONIADIS got angry with her and punched her in the chest in front of other employees.
"Witness C worked approximately 70 to 80 hours per week. PAPANTONIADIS knew Witness C needed the hours because she was supporting her drug- dependent parents. PAPANTONIADIS fired Witness C a few times, including one time for using her cell phone to ask her partner to bring her inhaler to the restaurant. During that episode, PAPANTONIADIS threatened to assault her."
If convicted, Papantoniadis faces up to 20 years in federal prison.