Federal prosecutors argued Monday that Stash’s Pizza owner Stavros “Steve” Papantoniadis should remain in jail as he awaits trial on a forced labor charge, also alleging the 47-year-old fraudulently received a loan for a business he’d already sold and collected unemployment while on vacation in Aruba.
The Westwood resident is accused of targeting immigrants lacking permanent legal status to serve as his employees, threatening them with deportation, assaulting them, and forcing them to work long hours for low pay. Papantoniadis, who owns Stash’s Pizza locations in Dorchester and Roslindale and previously operated pizzerias in several other communities, was arrested last week.
“He could and did operate the Stash’s Pizzerias with fewer and cheaper workers over whom he exercised significant control, all of which reduced his businesses’ labor and operating costs,” a Department of Homeland Security agent wrote in an affidavit filed in court last week.
One of his alleged victims, a man from North Africa who worked for Papantoniadis for nearly 14 years, told investigators he worked between 84 and 119 hours per week, according to the affidavit.
Papantoniadis allegedly assaulted the man several times, once kicking him in the groin hard enough that the man later needed surgery. On other occasions, Papantoniadis allegedly broke the man’s glasses, made expletive-laced comments about his Islamic faith, and broke the man’s upper and lower teeth.
Papantoniadis’s lawyer, Carmine Lepore, argued in court that the allegations against his client are from years ago and that the alleged victims have an incentive to lie in exchange for immigration assistance, as federal authorities have allowed them to remain in the U.S. due to the investigation, The Boston Globe reported.
He described Papantoniadis as “a family man” and asked the judge to release him on bail, the newspaper reported.
“The very age of these allegations should tell this court that they should not support detention,” Lepore said, according to the Globe. He did not immediately respond to Boston.com’s request for comment.
Judge Judith Dein took the matter under advisement and did not rule Monday on whether Papantoniadis will be released on bail, according to the Globe.
Meanwhile, records released by prosecutors indicate that more charges could be forthcoming, appearing to show that Papantoniadis received a $500,000 Small Business Administration loan for Boston Pizza Company in Randolph in January 2022, months after he sold the shop.
The documents also reflect state unemployment benefit payments to Papantoniadis and his wife. Homeland Security Investigations agent John Heaton testified Monday that the couple was vacationing in Aruba in February 2021 when they collected the benefits based on claims that they were available to work in Massachusetts at the time, according to the Globe.
Additionally, authorities said they found several sexually explicit videos on Stavros Papantoniadis’s iCloud account, allegedly depicting pain being inflicted on women and a boy, the Globe reported.
“They are consistent with his interest in the humiliation and sadistic violence targeting victims,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Fogerty asserted, according to the newspaper.
Lepore, the defense attorney, countered that to claim the videos suggest Papantoniadis was “some kind of sadistic individual is absolutely ridiculous,” per the Globe.
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