Boston pizza shop owner convicted of illegal coercion against workers in the country

Boston pizza shop owner convicted of illegal coercion against workers in the country

The owner of two pizza shops in Boston was convicted of forced labor on Friday after a nine-day trial

BOSTON – The owner of two Boston-area pizzerias was convicted Friday of forced labor for using physical force and threats of reprisal or deportation against employees living in the country illegally to keep them working long hours, sometimes seven days a week .

Prosecutors said Stavros Papantoniadis, of the Boston suburb of Westwood, thinly staffed his pizzerias and deliberately employed workers without immigration status behind the scenes for 14 or more hours a day.

He monitored the workers with surveillance cameras, which he accessed through his cellphone, and continually humiliated, insulted and harassed them, prosecutors said.

The jury found that Papantoniadis forced or attempted to coerce six victims to work for him and meet excessive workplace demands through violent abuse, leading them to believe he would physically harm them or have them deported.

Papantoniadis was convicted of three counts of forced labor and three counts of attempted forced labor. He will be sentenced on September 12. The forced labor and attempted forced labor charges each provide for 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.

Prosecutors said when a victim got tired of driving away, Papantoniadis chased him along Route 1 in Norwood and then falsely reported him to local police to get him back on the job. When Papantoniadis heard that a worker was planning to quit, he strangled him, causing the worker to flee the pizzeria to safety in the parking lot.

“Today’s guilty verdict sends a strong message to employers who abuse workers that exploiting workers through fear and intimidation will never be tolerated,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua Levy. “I hope this verdict also serves as a warning to others who may be victims of exploitation and harm by employers that the federal government will not stand idly by.”

A lawyer representing Papantoniadis said he and his client respect the jury’s verdict.

“However, we are extremely disappointed that they credited the victims’ testimonies and overlooked their motives, which were to obtain legal status here in our country,” Carmine Lepore said.