When Your Boss Is Also a Registered Sex Offender
Once a promising young cadet in the police academy, Conshohocken’s Francis “Frank” Laurenzi is now a convicted sex offender. In 2014, at the age of 29, Laurenzi pleaded guilty to statutory sexual assault and sexual abuse of a child. The victim took private ballroom dancing lessons from Laurenzi, and investigators said that he videotaped some of their more than 20 sexual encounters, which occurred when the girl was 14 and 15 and Laurenzi was 27.
Laurenzi will be listed on the Pennsylvania Megan’s Law website for the rest of his life. So does that mean he shouldn’t be able to work at the local pizza parlor?
If you ask 24-year-old Roxborough mom Michaela Naughton, the answer is a resounding yes. Until two weeks ago, Naughton worked as a server at the new East Norriton location of Mister P Pizza & Pasta, where Laurenzi was her manager.
“When I first met him, I knew something wasn’t right,” says Naughton, a health management student at the local community college, who added that she never really got along with Laurenzi. “My dad was a cop for 33 years, and I just have a sense about these things. Being around it all the time, you pick up on it.”
Certainly, Naughton didn’t think that Laurenzi was a registered sex offender, but her persistent belief that something was amiss led her to Google his name.
Naughton saw the articles about Laurenzi’s crimes and also found his entry on Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law website, where Laurenzi is listed as a tier-three sex offender, the most serious classification. (The two charges that Laurenzi pleaded guilty to are actually lower-tier offenses, but Pennsylvania law states that anyone guilty of more than one lower tier offense is automatically on the third tier.)
With what she felt was damning information in hand, Naughton told her co-workers about their manager’s misdeeds, and she went to the owner of Mister P’s Pizza, Giuseppe “Joe” Piroso, to ask why a guy like Laurenzi would not only be working at Mister P’s but also in charge. And to her surprise, she says Piroso defended Laurenzi, explaining that he was well aware of his history and status as a registered sex offender.
Naughton continued to raise holy hell, and within a few days, she says that Piroso fired her, something he denies.
“I got fired because I found out information about the manager and tried to take control of the situation and do the right thing,” maintains Naughton.
She was quick to point out that there was at least one girl under the age of 18 working at Mister P’s as well as a constant stream of customers who are children and teens, and Naughton surmised that this must be in violation of Laurenzi’s restrictions as a tier-three sex offender. After all, many sex offenders found on the Pennsylvania Megan’s Law website are not allowed to have contact with minors.
But that’s actually not the case with Laurenzi, whose only restriction is that he is not allowed to have contact with the victim, as the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office confirms. He’s allowed to live where he wants and work where he wants, and neighbors do not get a notification of his conviction nor is Piroso required to tell his employees or customers about Laurenzi’s past.
Like with most criminal sentences, the restrictions and requirements facing a sex offender can vary greatly, and the law recognizes that there is a difference between a “sexually violent predator” — think of most of the defendants on Law & Order: SVU — and someone convicted of a crime like Laurenzi’s.
But Naughton doesn’t see much of a difference.
“I’m sorry but these kinds of people just don’t belong in our society,” she decrees. “They just don’t. Honestly, people like him should get 25 to life, if you’re going to violate a child like that. He knew he was doing something wrong. If anyone ever does that to my child, I will be sitting behind bars. I can guarantee you that.”
On the day that she says she was fired, Naughton took to a local community Facebook page to let Mister P’s Pizza have it, telling people her side of the story and pleading with them not to eat at Mister P’s anymore.
“I saw what she wrote, and I can’t believe she is being so mean,” Piroso told us when we asked him about Naughton’s post. “I didn’t even fire her.”
The way Piroso tells it, Naughton was a difficult employee and “had problems with everybody.” He says that in addition to her hellfire over Laurenzi, Naughton was always giving another server a hard time, and so when the situation regarding Laurenzi came to a head, he had a talk with her.
“I told her that if she kept insisting on causing trouble all the time, I would have to take her off the schedule for a while,” Piroso recalls of the conversation. “I try to build a nice environment and make sure that everybody is getting along, but you just can’t make all people happy.” (Naughton disputes Piroso’s account and insists that he fired her because of her complaints over the manager.)
As for Laurenzi, who did not return calls seeking comment, Piroso has known his family for years.
When the original press reports came out, Piroso says he couldn’t grasp the fact that it was really Laurenzi, whom he met when Laurenzi was in his teens.
“I couldn’t believe that it’s the same guy,” Piroso remembers.
After serving just five months of a nine- to 23-month sentence in county jail, Laurenzi became eligible for work release, and Piroso readily offered him a job at Mister P’s.
“We couldn’t be happier with him,” says Piroso. “He made a mistake, and he’s paying the price. He’s very easy to work with — unlike some people — and does a great job for us. I don’t know why she has to make such a big deal about the past.”
Naughton’s lock-’em-up-and-throw-away-the-key reaction may be overblown and unreasonable, but it’s certainly not uncommon. And with the information so readily available, as it is on Pennsylvania’s Megan’s Law website, it’s hard to keep your past a secret if you’re a registered sex offender.
While reentry is difficult for any ex-convict, it is particularly difficult for sex offenders, who don’t seem to understand just how difficult life on the other side of a sex offense conviction is going to be, according to this 2012 study published on behalf of the Pennsylvania Prison Society. Finding housing and employment can be particularly challenging, and then there’s the stigma that never quite goes away once your neighbor finds out you are on the registry.
It’s commonly thought that sex offenders are highly likely to reoffend after reentering society, but that’s simply not the case. In fact, sex offenders are among the least likely to commit their crimes again. Still, the fear is real and enduring.
Taken to its extreme, the fear of sex offenders can lead to vigilante murder and disastrous scenarios like the one that played out in Miami, where a colony of dozens of sex offenders grew under a bridge, because they had nowhere else to go.
“I always try to help people and give them a second chance,” Piroso tells us. “I’m just trying to help him get his life back on track. If we don’t open up ourselves to people like that, is it really any good to have them living on the street?”
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