Trial to start for Boston pizzeria owner accused of extreme abuse of employees

Opening statements in the trial of a Boston-area pizza chain owner charged with physically abusing and threatening employees who lacked immigration status are scheduled to kick off Tuesday morning in federal court.

Stavros Papantoniadis, 48, of Westwood, was indicted last year on four counts of forced labor and three counts of attempted forced labor after prosecutors accused him of targeting employees of Stash’s Pizza without immigration status, paying them low wages, and “demanded” that they work six to seven days a week.

At least seven people were subject to violent physical abuse, threats of violence or serious harm, and repeated threats to report them to immigration authorities to have them deported, prosecutors said.

“Papantoniadis violently attacked one of the victims several times, including kicking him in the genitals, slapping and choking the victim and causing him to lose teeth,” federal prosecutors said last year.

Papantoniadis “vehemently denied” the allegations, his defense attorneys have said.

“The government’s case consists of allegations from seven named victims where each one has received immigration benefits, now have legal status and in addition to being able to remain in the country also gives them access to several other federal assistance benefit. To say that each of them has an incentive to fabricate is stating the obvious,” the lawyers wrote.

Prosecutors said Papantoniadis’ alleged treatment of his employees allowed him to gain an edge over competitors and obtain a “substantial financial benefit.”

“He could operate Stash’s Pizza with fewer and cheaper workers over whom he allegedly exercised significant control, all of which reduced his businesses’ labor and operating costs,” prosecutors said.

Charges of forced labor carry up to 20 years in prison each, up to five years of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000, according to federal prosecutors.

Opening remarks in Papantoniadis’ jury trial are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Tuesday in Boston before Chief Judge Dennis Saylor IV.

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