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Stash's Pizza owner Stavros Papantoniadis faces federal judge, accused of abusing employees

Stash's Pizza owner Stavros Papantoniadis faces federal judge, accused of abusing employees
Stash's Pizza owner Stavros Papantoniadis faces federal judge, accused of abusing employees 02:11

BOSTON – A judge is now deciding whether the owner of a Boston pizza chain accused of abusing undocumented employees will remain behind bars while his case is pending.

Police arrested Stavros Papantoniadis last week.

Papantoniadis, of Westwood, is the owner of Stash's Pizza, which currently has locations in Dorchester and Roslindale. He previously operated pizzerias in Norwood, Norwell, Randolph, Weymouth and Wareham.

Stavros Papantoniadis Stash's
Former Boston Mayor Marty Walsh hands Stash's owner Stavros Papantoniadis an "A" letter grade for restaurant cleanliness CBS Boston

The 47-year-old who goes by "Steve" was arrested and charged with one count of forced labor in federal court on Thursday.

The U.S. attorney's office said Papantoniadis employed an undocumented man for 14 years. During that time, Papantoniadis allegedly threatened to have that man and other employees deported. Prosecutors say Papantoniadis "violently attacked" the victim on multiple occasions.

Prosecutors said undocumented employees were underpaid and made to work six or seven days a week for long hours and often without breaks or overtime pay. He's also accused of withholding wages.

Investigators say he also threatened to report workers to immigration officials if they tried to quit.

During a hearing Monday in federal court, Homeland Security special agent John Heaton took the stand. Heaton testified that a person identified only as Victim 1, an undocumented immigrant from South Africa, worked 85-115 hours a week at Stash's.

Victim 1 alleged that Papantoniadis contacted him while he was recovering from being picked in the genitals. He said Papantoniadis threatened to kill him if he did not return to work.

Prosecutors said there are a total of seven accusers, all undocumented immigrants. 

Investigators said they reviewed files from Papantoniadis' cloud account and allegedly found videos of a violent beating and sexually explicit content. 

Defense attorneys claim many of the allegations made by the victims are from decades ago. They also argued that they are incentivized to testify against Papantoniadis to gain immigration assistance.

The defense called Jerry Skordas, the manager at the Dorchester location of Stash's pizza, as a witness during Monday's hearing. Skordas testified that no employee has every complained to him about being assaulted by Papantoniadis.   

Papantoniadis asked his defense attorney and the judge if he could speak to the court, but was ultimately advised against doing that.

The magistrate judge said after the hours-long hearing that she will take all arguments under advisement and could rule at any time. 

Skordas spoke outside of court, asked what his reaction is to the charges.  

"Yea, that, we'll let the lawyer answer that. I just know that Steve is an amazing person and I'm blessed to know him for so many years," Skordas said.

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