Tyrone pizza shop owner faces charges

TYRONE – A borough restaurant owner allegedly had inappropriate contact with his teenage employees, according to Tyrone police.

Samy F. El Masry, 62, of 5 W. 10th St., Tyrone, and of Brockway was taken into custody Monday afternoon by Tyrone police on felony and misdemeanor charges stemming from allegations by seven former employees that El Masry groped, kissed and made sexual comments directed toward the teenagers while they worked at El Masry’s Tyrone restaurant, Samboli’s, at 25 W. 10th Street.

“My client maintains his innocence, and we’re going to vigorously defend against these charges,” said El Masry’s attorney, Steven Passarello, after El Masry’s arraignment Monday afternoon on four felony counts of unlawful contact with a minor, five counts each of misdemeanor corruption of minors and indecent assault, three counts of misdemeanor harassment and seven counts of summary harassment.

Tyrone police began their investigation into El Masry on March 3 after the mother of a 16-year-old employee reported to police that El Masry had sexually assaulted the girl on her first day of work. The next day, the Tyrone Area School District contacted police to say several additional students had come forward as potential victims, according to court records.

Police ultimately interviewed two 16-year-old girls, two 17-year-old girls, an 18-year-old male, two 17 year-old boys and a 16-year-old boy in the case. El Masry allegedly kissed his teenage employees, both male and female, made sexual comments about them, including telling them he wanted to watch them have sex with each other, and would grab or rub their buttocks while working, according to the affidavit of probable cause.

“If I were younger, I’d drink your dirty bath water,” El Masry allegedly told one of the teenagers, a 16-year-old girl who had applied to work at the restaurant but decided not to pursue it after her alleged encounter with El Masry in the restaurant.

One 17-year-old girl alleged El Masry touched her four times in the one month she worked at the restaurant and would often attempt to get other male teenagers to touch her butt. On one occasion, El Masry allegedly handed a rolling pin to her and told her to spank a 17-year-old male co-worker with it, something she refused to do, police said.

El Masry allegedly made sexual remarks to a 16-year-old girl and kissed her, putting his tongue in her mouth. Police said the girl told investigators he told her that if he was younger he would have sex with her and talked about sexual positions. El Masry allegedly gave the girl $20 to make up for having kissed her so she wouldn’t tell her parents.

El Masry, who was born in Egypt but who has been a U.S. citizen since 1983, was jailed Monday after Magisterial District Judge Fred Miller set bail at $35,000 cash. Miller also ordered El Masry, who is married and maintains a home in Brockway, not to have any contact with the alleged victims in the case and to surrender his passport should he post bail.

Passarello said he was “a little shocked” at the amount of El Masry’s bail but respected Miller’s decision and the factors he had to consider. Passarello had argued that El Masry be released on unsecured bail and said he is a well respected businessman, a benefactor to the community and not a flight risk.

El Masry was placed in Blair County Prison Monday evening in lieu of bail and is scheduled to appear before Miller on March 18, although the court indicated the date of El Masry’s preliminary hearing will likely be postponed until a later date.