BOSTON (WHDH) - The owner of a pizza chain with multiple Boston-area locations appeared in court Thursday facing a federal forced labor charge amid accusations that he abused an employee and threatened to report the employee’s immigration status. 

Stavros Papantoniadis, 47, of Westwood was charged with one count of forced labor, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced.

Papantoniadis owns Stash’s Pizza with locations in Dorchester and Roslindale. 

Homeland Security investigators said Papantoniadis targeted employees who lacked immigration status.

Officials said one unnamed victim, who worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week at the restaurant in Dorchester was afraid of Papantoniadis and once cried when he was kicked in the groin.

Investigators said Papantoniadis also knocked the man’s teeth out.

“Victim 1 missed a day of work. The next day, Papantoniadis pushed him and caused him to fall to the floor. Papantoniadis then called Victim 1 an ‘[Expletive] Muslim,'” court paperwork said of one incident.

While Papantoniadis currently owns the Dorchester and Roslindale Stash’s locations, officials said he formerly owned other pizza shops in Norwell, Norwood, Randolph, Weymouth and Wareham.

Dr. Gaile Hepburn, a chiropractor who works above the Stash’s location in Dorchester, said she was shocked to hear about allegations on Thursday.

Hepburn said she rarely saw Papantoniadis.

“[H]e comes really early and leaves early,” she said.

“I’m originally from Belize, Central America and I wouldn’t want anyone to treat me like that,” Hepburn said of alleged actions by Papantoniadis.

Stash’s Pizza in Dorchester was open on Thursday. At the shop, a longtime manager defended his boss in comments to 7NEWS. 

“I’ve been manager here since 2008,” the man said. “He’s the nicest guy you’ll ever meet.”

U.S. Attorney Rachael Rollins discussed allegations against Papantoniadis in a statement earlier on Thursday, saying “forced labor is a form of human trafficking.”

“Allegations in this case are horrific,” Rollins said. “Nobody has the right to violently kick, slap, punch or choke anyone, and certainly not an employer to an employee.”

Rollins asked current and former employees who feel they were victimized to come forward.

The charge against Papantoniadis carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, up to 5 years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000 if he is convicted.

Papantoniadis was detained pending a detention hearing on Thursday. He is set to appear back in court on Monday.

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