Pizza Chain Owner Threatened Undocumented Workers Into Forced Labor

A Massachusetts pizza shop owner was found guilty on Friday of forced labor charges after prosecutors say he physically abused and threatened to report six undocumented workers to immigration authorities.

Stavros “Steve” Papantoniadis, 48, is the owner of Boston pizza chain Stash’s Pizza. He was convicted of three counts of forced labor and three counts of attempted forced labor, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Massachusetts announced.

Papantoniadis’ was initially arrested in March of last year, following reports that he had been targeting undocumented employees for approximately 14 years, NBC affiliate WBTS reported at the time.

Stash's Pizza via Google Maps
Stash’s Pizza via Google Maps

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After Papantoniadis was arrested, a man at one Stash’s location who identified himself as the co-owner told WTBS, “Everything is not true. It’s all fake, and it’ll be resolved in court.”

Evidence cited in the trial revealed that Papantoniadis purposely employed workers without legal immigration status and forced them to work 14-hour days for as many as seven days a week, federal prosecutors said in the announcement.

According to, Papantoniadis was investigated by the labor department in 2017, and during the investigation authorities found evidence that he “tried to intimidate at least one witness.”

“Stavros Papantoniadis instilled fear in his employees. He underpaid and threatened them, some with fear of arrest and many with physical abuse,” Michael J. Krol, Special Agent, said in Friday’s announcement.

Prosecutors said Papantoniadis would “maintain control” over some undocumented workers by making them believe he would physically harm them or have them deported, according to the announcement. Others were physically abused at work.

In one instance cited by prosecutors, Papantoniadis “violently choked” a worker after learning of his intentions to quit the restaurant. Another worker who tried to quit and flee the pizza shop was also chased down by Papantoniadis, who made a false police report to pressure him to return.

According to court documents cited by WBTS, one victim who worked at Stash’s Pizza from 2001 to 2015 endured multiple instances of physical abuse by Papantoniadis, who made derogatory comments about his Muslim religion.

Prosecutors said that employee was pushed to the floor and kicked in the genitals, and that Papantoniadis threatened to kill him if he sought medical treatment or did not return to work, according to WBTS. That employee also had his teeth broken during the abuse, causing him to need dentures.

Papantoniadis is now facing up to 20 years for each charge of force labor and attempted force labor, as well a $250,000 fine. His sentencing is set for Sept. 12.

“Mr. Papantoniadis preyed on the desperation of those without immigration status, subjecting them to violence and threats of deportation,” U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy said in the announcement. “Forced labor is a serious violation of human rights, and no one in the United States should live in fear of abuse and coercion in their workplace.”

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