A lawsuit has been filed against the owner of Parmesans Wood Stone Pizza in Frankfort accusing him of secretly filming "up skirt video" of numerous female employees using a shoe camera, with the potential for hundreds of other victims, attorneys said.
The civil suit, filed Friday in Cook County, claims new evidence indicates there could be as many as 500 victims dating back at least decade following accusations the south suburban restaurant owner used a "covert" shoe camera to record at least eight female employees, many of them teenagers, without their knowledge.
Attorneys claim a hard drive seized by police contained deleted files with more than 24,000 photographs and videos "that appear to be taken over a decade."
Michael J. Papandrea, 58, of Frankfort was arrested and charged with unauthorized video recording, a Class A Misdemeanor, in March 2020, police said. He now faces 17 criminal charges in connection with the secret recordings.
Papandrea did not respond to NBC Chicago's requests for comment on the lawsuit.
Authorities confirmed at the time of his arrest that a search warrant was issued and officers indicated they seized electronics and video.
At the time, police said a preliminary search of the electronics revealed several unauthorized "up-skirt" videos involving Papandrea’s female employees. Papandrea posted bond and was later released, Illinois State Police said, noting that additional charges were possible "pending further forensic examination of evidence seized."
According to the suit, a forensic expert hired by the plaintiffs in the lawsuit discovered 1,900 covert videos taken from a "hidden webcam in a shoe," as well as 14 videos taken from a video camera over a bathroom toilet.
Attorneys said the expert estimates "there could be at least 500 more victims."
"The photos and videos include many sickening images including more 'up skirt shots' and appear to be shot at various locations including shopping malls, other restaurants, inside bathrooms, offices, backyard parties, and even some that appear to be shot on vacation,” said attorney Lindsay Proskey.
Papandrea owns three restaurants in the south suburbs, including Parmesans Wood Stone Pizza, Parmesans Station, and Parmesans Manheim Chicago. All three restaurants are named in the suit.
According to the complaint, Papandrea required female employees to wear dresses and skirts while working as hostesses and waitresses and "subjected young employees to unwelcome sexual advances often times by rubbing their backs and shoulders to place himself within close enough proximity to film the girl’s buttocks and genital region."
“Our lawsuit claims the defendant committed this heinous act to multiple servers at his three restaurants,” attorney David Axelrod said in a statement. “It’s unfathomable how this wouldn’t scar any woman for life. We are determined to bring our decades of legal expertise to bare, in bringing some semblance of deserved restitution.”