Mar 23, 2023 - News

Westwood pizza parlor owner faces federal charges

Stash's in Dorchester by Franklin Park. Photo: Jonathan Wiggs/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The owner of Stash's Pizza in Dorchester and Roslindale is being held without bail after a judge decided his history of violence makes him a threat to possible witnesses in his forced labor case.

Driving the news: Federal Judge Judith Gail Dein Tuesday ordered Stavros "Steve" Papantoniadis to remain in jail after reviewing his record, which includes an assault charge for using a pizza shovel as a weapon in 1996 and a 1997 conviction for motor-vehicle homicide, according to court documents.

Catch up quick: Westwood resident Papantoniadis was arrested March 16 and charged with one federal count of forced labor, or compelling employees to work against their will.

  • Papantoniadis recruited and hired immigrants not authorized to work in the U.S., and beat and abused seven workers, according to the government's affidavit.
  • Papantoniadis would reference an employee's immigration status if they threatened to quit, per the affidavit.

Why it matters: Papantoniadis ran a well-known chain of pizzerias under the Stash's band, which used to have locations in Weymouth, Norwood, Norwell, Randolph and Wareham.

  • The case has brought attention to how vulnerable undocumented workers are to abusive employers.

What they're saying: "The defendant's history of violence and threats puts potential witnesses at great risk," Dein wrote in her decision.

The other side: Papantoniadis' defense attorneys said in court this week that many of the accusations date back years.

  • The defense team alleged that the accusers are incentivized to testify against Papantoniadis to gain favor in the immigration process, according to CBS Boston.
  • Papantoniadis' attorney did not immediately respond to Axios' request for comment.

Zoom in: According to the government's affidavit, Papantoniadis forced employees to work six or seven days a week for depressed or no wages at all, "far more than eight hours per day."

  • One immigrant from North Africa told authorities he worked at Stash's sometimes over 100 hours a week between 2001 and 2015 and that Papantoniadis broke his teeth and kicked him in the groin during another violent assault.

Context: Papantoniadis faces a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

The big picture: Greater Boston Legal Services attorney Audrey Richardson told GBH News cases where immigrant workers are exploited are not uncommon.

  • Undocumented workers fear deportation if they come forward, she said.

What's next: Papantoniadis has not yet entered a plea and no date has been set for trial.


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