Trial of pizzeria owner who 'instilled fear in his employees' is over. What happened

BOSTON – An Eastern Massachusetts pizzeria owner who threatened and physically abused employees has been convicted of forced labor charges, the U.S. attorney's office said.

Stavros "Steve" Papantoniadis, 48, of Westwood, was convicted June 7 after a nine-day jury trial in Boston federal court of three counts of forced labor and three counts of attempted forced labor.

He could face more than 20 years in prison when he is sentenced Sept. 12.

Papantoniadis owns Stash’s Pizza in Dorchester and Roslindale. His former restaurants include Boston Pizza Co. in Norwell and Randolph and Pacini's Italian Eatery in Weymouth, plus others in Wareham and Norwood.

Prosecutors say he forced or tried to force five men and one woman to work for him and comply with excessive workplace demands through violent physical abuse; threats of violence and serious harm; and repeated threats to report them to immigration authorities for deportation.

Workers threatened with physical harm

Papantoniadis thinly staffed his pizza shops and purposely hired workers without immigration status to work behind the scenes for 14 or more hours a day and as many as seven days a week, prosecutors said. He made them believe that he would physically harm them or have them deported if they didn't submit to his demands, prosecutors said.

“Stavros Papantoniadis instilled fear in his employees. He underpaid and threatened them, some with fear of arrest and many with physical abuse,” said Michael J. Krol, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in New England.

Papantoniadis constantly demeaned, insulted and harassed his employees, authorities said. When he learned that one victim planned to quit, he choked him, they said.

Authorities said Papantoniadis told another worker who wanted to quit that he would kill him and call immigration authorities, and he threatened another worker by telling him he knew where the victim lived.

After a worker tried to leave, Papantoniadis chased the employee down Route 1 in Norwood and falsely reported the victim to the police to pressure the victim to return to work, authorities said.

Papantoniadis has been in custody since his arrest March 16, 2023.

Each charge of forced labor and attempted forced labor carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to five years of supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000, and restitution.

More: Local pizza chain owner, detained on forced labor charges, faces new indictment

New charges: Defrauding the government of COVID-relief money

Earlier this year, Papantoniadis was indicted again in federal court, this time on two charges of wire fraud. Officials say he defrauded the U.S. Small Business Administration of $500,000 in COVID-relief money.

The fraud charges relate to Boston Pizza Co. on North Main Street in Randolph, which Papantoniadis sold in April 2021, according to court documents.

The indictment alleges that Papantoniadis applied for almost $1 million through the U.S. Small Business Administration's Economic Injury Disaster Loan program for the pizzeria in November 2021, about seven months after he sold the business.

More: No jail time for Plymouth man who stole pandemic relief money

On Dec. 4, 2021, the Small Business Association denied Papantoniadis' application. He then had a certified public accountant send the government agency a "certificate of good standing and/or tax compliance," the indictment says. On Dec. 28, the loan was approved, and Papantoniadis received $499,900 from the U.S. Treasury.

On the application, Papantoniadis falsely claimed that 18 employees worked at the closed business, the indictment alleges.

Papantoniadis' record of criminal charges and labor violations

In 1996, Papantoniadis was charged with assault and battery, malicious destruction of property and assault and battery with dangerous weapon − a pizza shovel − according to the detention order issued by District Court Judge Judith Gail Dein in March 2023.

In 1997, he was sentenced to 2½ years in jail for motor vehicle homicide and leaving the scene of an accident.

In 2017, the U.S. Department of Labor investigated Papantoniadis for overtime violations, resulting in employees receiving payments for back wages and damages, the detention order says.

Patriot Ledger staff writer Peter Blandino contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on The Patriot Ledger: Convicted Mass. pizza shop owner could face over 20 years in prison