Pizzeria owner convicted of worker abuse

A federal jury last Friday convicted Stavros Papantoniadis, 48, of Westwood, on three counts of forced labor and three counts of attempted forced labor for what has been described as a reign of terror against his workers, acts that included sending one man into surgery twice and tormenting other workers by threatening them with death and with giving their names to federal immigration agents.'

US Judge F. Dennis Saylor set sentencing for Sept. 12.

Papantoniadis faces a sentence of up to 20 years. He has been behind bars since his arrest on March 16, 2023, with judges declaring him too much of a threat to the workers who testified against him to let him stay free.

Papantoniadis owns Stash’s at Blue Hill Avenue and Columbia Road. He formerly owned Stash’s on Belgrade Avenue in Roslindale, but following his arrest, that was closed, then renamed Bel Ave Pizza. Filings at the Secretary of State’s office showed that he remains the president of the LLC that owns that restaurant.

According to a statement by the US Attorney’s office in Boston, Papantoniadis “forced or attempted to force five men and one woman to work for him through violent physical abuse, threats of abuse, and repeated threats to report victims to immigration authorities to have them deported.”

According to evidence introduced at trial, Papantoniadis thinly staffed his pizza shops, and purposely employed workers without immigration status to work behind the scene for 14 or more hours per day and up to seven days per week. He monitored the workers with surveillance cameras, which he accessed from his cell phone, and constantly demeaned, insulted, and harassed them.

When he learned that one worker planned to quit, he violently choked him, causing the employee to run to safety in the parking lot. When other workers separately expressed their intentions to quit, Papantoniadis threatened one of them by telling him he knew where the victim lived. When another worker tried to drive away from one of the owner’s pizza shops, Papantoniadis chased the victim down Route 1 in Norwood, then falsely reported the victim to the local police in an effort to pressure the victim to return to work.

Separately, Papantoniadis now faces trial on charges he defrauded the federal government by claiming money for keeping workers employed during the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic at a restaurant he no longer owned.

Subscribe to the Dorchester Reporter