Michael Papandrea, the owner of three restaurants in the Chicago suburbs, is being sued for allegedly sexually harassing and secretly recording at least eight female employees in his restaurants, although investigators think Papandrea’s misconduct extends far beyond the eight plaintiffs in the existing lawsuit.
Papandrea is the owner of Parmesans Wood Stone Pizza in Frankfort, Tinley Park, and Matteson, and according to the lawsuit, he regularly instructed his female employees to wear skirts and dresses to work, and routinely touched them, including rubbing and poking their backs, arms, and shoulders. His habit of touching them was allegedly an excuse to get close enough to them to film up their skirts using a camera he kept in the toe of his shoe and controlled with an app on his phone.
The employees (all of whom were teenagers at the time of the alleged misconduct), reported the harassment to their supervisor, but as the owner of the restaurants, Papandrea outranked her. The supervisor has also joined the sexual harassment lawsuit as a plaintiff, so the fact that she was also being harassed by Papandrea most likely contributed to her feeling she could do nothing to help her subordinates.
Of the eight named plaintiffs alleging sexual harassment, most of them were underage at the time – five of them were 16, one was only 14, and one was 18.
The Illinois State Police stormed Papandrea’s Frankfort restaurant in March of 2020 after having received a tip regarding his misconduct. Papandrea was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of unauthorized video recording but was later released on bond. A few months later, he was charged with 12 felony counts and five misdemeanors involving taking unauthorized video recording through and under the clothing of seven girls and two women. Some of the women involved were allegedly filmed multiple times by Papandrea.
When Papandrea was arrested, his cell phone was confiscated and investigators have since found almost 1,000 videos shot up the skirts of women who were unaware of the filming.
In addition to the cell phone, investigators seized other electronic devices, including a hard drive with more than 24,000 videos and photos that had been shot up the skirts of young women and had been recently deleted. Almost 2,000 of the videos had been filmed using Papandrea’s hidden-shoe camera, while 14 had come from a video camera over a bathroom toilet.
Based on the extensive footage found on the hard drive, investigators suspect Papandrea secretly filmed more than 500 people over a period of more than a decade.
State police are still actively investigating the case and are not currently releasing additional information. Three or four additional women have contacted the law firm representing the plaintiffs since the sexual harassment lawsuit was filed, and attorneys are encouraging other potential victims to contact state police.
The lawsuit is seeking civil restitution for the plaintiffs, and while the attorneys recognize that no amount of money can undo the damage Papandrea has done, they hope a monetary settlement can bring them some sort of peace.
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