PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The owner of a suburban Philadelphia pizza shop was arraigned on Tuesday on charges he schemed to plant live mice in competing pizza parlors in hope of putting them out of business.
Nickolas Galiatsatos, owner of Nina’s Bella Pizzeria in Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, is accused of putting bags of mice at nearby competitors on Monday afternoon, according to Upper Darby Police Superintendent Michael Chitwood.
The owner of Verona Pizza watched Galiatsatos go into his restroom carrying a bag but emerge empty-handed, and alerted two patrol officers who were in the restaurant, Chitwood said.
The officers found a bag of mice and footprints on a toilet seat, suggesting someone had been trying to reach the ceiling tiles, he said.
The officers then found Galiatsatos near another pizza place, Uncle Nick’s, where he was seen putting something in a trash can. There, police found a bag containing five mice, Chitwood said.
“This guy planted them to put these guys out of business,” Chitwood said.
“I’ve been at this for 47 years, and I’ve never seen mice used as a criminal tool,” he added.
Galiatsatos claimed his shop had been infested with mice, and he blamed his competitors for the problem, he said.
Chitwood said that Galiatsatos told police he bought the mice at a pet shop for $10.
He faces misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals, criminal mischief, harassment and disorderly conduct.
Reporting by Dave Warner, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst