Criminal complaints fly in pizza shop shutdown

(Gazette File Photo by Gloria Carrigg) Eric Ciampa at Slice O’ Pie shortly after its opening in February 2011.

HYDE SQ.—The former owner of the Slice O’ Pie pizza shop and his ex-landlord have filed criminal complaints against each other for alleged larceny and threats following the shop’s abrupt shutdown in late May.

Meanwhile, an ex-employee says the workers were never told the closure was coming and remain unpaid after losing their jobs. Landlord John Meehan said he is attempting to reopen the shop to keep them employed.

Eric Ciampa, who opened the 378 Centre St. pizzeria last year, closed it down without notice, apparently in the early morning hours of May 31. He told the Gazette that he was forced to flee because Meehan threatened his girlfriend and was plotting to take over the store. Meehan is slated to appear in Jamaica Plain’s West Roxbury District Court July 9 to see if he will be charged with making threats to Ciampa and his girlfriend.

“He’s a bad person. He wanted to take my business,” Ciampa said of Meehan. “He was making threats to me, threats to the business, threats to my girlfriend.”

But Meehan told the Gazette that Ciampa was about to be evicted for unpaid rent and removed equipment and a TV set that he was leasing from Meehan during the secret overnight move. He alleges that Ciampa moved the gear to another shop he reportedly owns, Avellino Pizzeria in Easton. Meehan filed a complaint of felony larceny against Ciampa on June 1.

Ciampa told the Gazette he has receipts for the equipment and that Meehan actually has some of Ciampa’s gear, not the other way around. The Boston Police Department declined to comment on the status of the larceny complaint.

“He comes in and rapes the store overnight,” Meehan said of Ciampa, adding that the pizza shop owner is “mean” and “self-centered” for leaving him and employees unpaid.

Meehan and the employees also were unaware that Ciampa had put the restaurant up for sale sometime in May through Canton-based HRI Services Restaurant Brokers. Louis Theodos, HRI’s vice president and broker on the sale, told the Gazette that he did not know Slice O’ Pie was no longer in business until Meehan discovered the sale listing and notified him last month.

Former employee Felix Merida said that Ciampa showed up at the store the night before the shutdown and told the employees to go home early because an exhaust vent needed to be cleaned that night. When employees arrived for work the next day, Merida said, the shop was shut down and most of its equipment was gone. They never got their final paychecks, he said.

“He left people on the hook,” Merida said of Ciampa. “I don’t want to put down the guy, but that wasn’t an honest way to do business.”

Ciampa told the Gazette that a general manager operating the store was supposed to notify the employees of the closure and pay them. When told that they were not notified, he said, “That’s strange.”

“I didn’t keep track of payments. I don’t have contact with the employees,” Ciampa said of the employees’ back pay. “That’s not a problem,” he added, indicating that he would pay the workers.

But a week later, Merida said he and two other ex-employees remained unpaid and had not heard from Ciampa, despite leaving messages on his phone.

Slice O’ Pie left food distributors and other suppliers unpaid as well, Merida said. Another ex-employee, Matt Lash, told the Gazette that he quit the shop on Dec. 31, 2011 in part due to not being paid.

Randace Rauscher Moore, the executive director of the JP Centre/South Main Streets business promotion organization, is a web designer on the side and said she also was left hanging by Ciampa. She said that she and partner Matthew Allen designed the pizzeria’s website but “were never paid for the job as [we] were promised.” The Gazette is among the shop’s creditors.

Meehan said he bought new equipment and attempted to reopen the shop and keep employees working. Ciampa called the City’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) on June 8 to complain that Meehan did not have his own restaurant permit, according to ISD records. ISD did not cite Meehan, but did indicate that Meehan needs to get his own permit. Meehan told the Gazette he is hoping to get a new pizza shop owner to take over the location with the same employees.

Meanwhile, Meehan heads to court next week to answer two threat complaints. In one complaint about an alleged incident in March that was filed only after the shop’s shutdown, Ciampa’s girlfriend, Yajaira Andujar, claimed that Meehan took food from the shop and refused to pay, saying that was his right as a landlord. Meehan allegedly then told a witness, “I’m gonna get her,” and later was seen sitting in a vehicle in the driveway of her sister’s house, according to a police report.

The other complaint involves “death threats on my phone” following the shutdown, said Ciampa, including one where Meehan allegedly said, “Bring a gun. I’m going to see you.”

Meehan acknowledged to the Gazette that he made a statement to that effect, but said it was only in response to a threat from Ciampa to “blow my…head off.” Meehan also acknowledged that he encountered Andujar in March, but denied threatening her and said it was only a “coincidence” that their paths crossed while he was attempting to find Ciampa to discuss unpaid rent.

“I got no record,” Meehan said. “[Ciampa is] reaching for straws here.” He also discounted Ciampa’s claim that he conspired to take over the pizzeria, noting that it would be hard work and he is 61 and has some health problems. “What do I want with a restaurant?” Meehan said.

Ciampa said he would have preferred to move the shop somewhere else in Hyde Square, but that the situation became too threatening to continue.

“He’s a smooth talker. He tries to make it look like I’m the bad guy, but he did it all,” Ciampa said of Meehan. “I walked away from a beautiful business.”

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