Cops: Pizza-store owner concocts half-baked plan

Fanis Facas (left), co-owner of Verona Pizza in Upper Darby, shows the bathroom stall where Nikolas Galiatsatos (above) allegedly deposited a bag of mice in the ceiling. Below are the mice.
Fanis Facas (left), co-owner of Verona Pizza in Upper Darby, shows the bathroom stall where Nikolas Galiatsatos (above) allegedly deposited a bag of mice in the ceiling. Below are the mice.
Posted: March 01, 2011

WHAT A RAT BASTARD!

An Upper Darby pizzeria owner gone goofy tried to sabotage two of his competitors yesterday by dumping live mice in their pizza shops, police said.

Nikolas Galiatsatos, 47, owner of Nina's Bella Pizzeria on West Chester Pike, walked into Verona's Pizza, less than a half a mile away, about 2 p.m. carrying a bag and asking to use the bathroom, Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood said.

He was allowed to do so, but employees thought it was strange when the man, whom they said they didn't know, left the bathroom without his bag and without buying food, said Nick Facas, who has owned Verona's with his brother Fanis for six years.

Facas said his brother, who was working at the time, noticed footprints on the toilet seat and looked in the ceiling above the toilet, where he found the man's plastic bag with a paper bag inside.

Thinking the bag was filled with drugs, he gave it to two Upper Darby police officers who were in the shop eating lunch, Chitwood said. But instead of drugs, there were several little, hairy, white mice in the bag, police said.

The officers looked outside for Galiatsatos and saw him walking into another nearby pizza shop, Uncle Nick's, carrying another bag, Chitwood said.

When Galiatsatos saw that the cops were watching him, Chitwood said, he quickly entered and left Uncle Nick's, but he was no Speedy Gonzales. Police stopped him outside the restaurant and discovered that he had put the bag - which contained five live mice and one dead one - into a trash can at Uncle Nick's, Chitwood said.

"It's the great pizza wars of mice and men," Chitwood said. "He was trying to drive these people out of business."

Galiatsatos, of Bryn Mawr, was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, criminal mischief, harassment and animal cruelty. Police said he had purchased the mice at a local pet shop yesterday morning. Once recovered, they were turned over to animal control, Chitwood said.

Last night, Facas couldn't believe that a competitor could stoop so low.

"I'm really upset and angered that he was basically taking a low shortcut to improve his business," Facas said. "It was a stupid move, and who knows how many others he was trying to do it to."

Chitwood said that Galiatsatos had opened his shop only a few months ago and that business had not been good, which, Chitwood speculated, may have spurred him to sabotage his competitors.

But an employee who answered the phone at Galiatsatos' pizzeria last night - which was open - said business has been good.

"We were doing so well. I don't understand what's going on," he said. "I'm baffled as to why anybody would do something like that."

The worker, who asked to be identified only as Nick G., said he was just an employee but added, "I'm probably going to be a manager now."

He said someone called him in to work yesterday and told him there was an emergency but did not explain what it was.

"I'm like a mushroom kept in the dark inside of s--- all day," he said. "I have no idea what's going on."

He said the shop employees had the pizzeria's TVs tuned to the local news stations last night so they could watch the broadcasts about their boss' arrest.

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