When then-19-year-old Chloe Richards met her boss while working at Dos Toros in 2013, how we talked about sexual assault was different.
It was before convicted rapist Harvey Weinstein was ousted from the movie business. Before West Village bar and restaurant The Spotted Pig shuttered after allegations about a private area employees called the “rape room.” The public didn’t yet know about an Alabama Republican named Roy Moore who ran for a Senate seat while he was being accused of sexually assaulting or mistreating underage girls. And it was before the nation watched Christine Blasey Ford detail before the Senate how Justice Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted her.
Prior to those stories, Richards was hooking up with her then-boss, Diego Macias—most recently a part-owner of Archie’s Bar & Pizza, a popular Bushwick pizzeria that closed in late July following a wave of sexual misconduct allegations against him.
Richards liked Macias at first, who was more than a decade older than her at the time. But, she alleges, their relationship became mired with abuse—nonconsensual behaviors during initially consensual sex, underage drinking and drug use, and a request to keep their relationship private since he was her boss.
One night in 2013, she says Macias assaulted her by taking off a condom during sex—known as stealthing.
“I vividly remember just crying on the phone walking over to [buy] Plan B and feeling like something wrong happened, but the conversations around assault and even stealthing—which I think is a very light term for what assault is—those conversations weren’t happening in the early 2010s,” she said.
On other occasions, Richards, now 26, claims he slapped her during sexual intercourse without consent and initiated anal sex twice, claiming it was an accident when she stopped him, over the course of their years-long relationship.
She didn’t realize it was assault until years later, notably while watching Blasey Ford’s testimony in late 2018. This summer, she came forward with her allegations on Instagram and to Archie’s owner, Dimitri Karapanos, specifically naming Macias. She told Gothamist she felt emboldened by the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as talking with another woman about her experience with Macias.
“For the longest time, I just thought I was being overdramatic or sensitive or that me even calling it an assault was me going overboard or doing too much,” Richards said. “I knew in my heart something was off. I just didn’t have the words for it.”
After Richards went public, she heard from a total of 31 women, and shared their allegations against Macias on her Instagram. The posts have since been deleted to “protect the people who are now filing incident reports” and “potential liabilities since it now has become a legal matter,” Richards says.
Gothamist interviewed seven women who allege assault, predatory behavior, manipulation, and coercion against Macias going back nearly a decade. Three worked with him at Dos Toros, two met him after being regular customers at places he worked, and two met him through working in the industry in Brooklyn. The women say drugs and alcohol exacerbated the manipulative patterns during their on-and-off relationships with Macias.
Their stories paint a picture of abuse often left out of the public conversations within the Me Too movement regarding sexual violence within a relationship, during encounters that often began consensual, and within an industry where such encounters are common and normalized.
In one instance, a former Dos Toros employee said Macias choked her so hard while having sex she thought she was in danger. She agreed to share her allegation with Gothamist if we withheld her name due to legal reasons involving the company.
“He choked me really hard without asking, and I tried to get him to stop and he wouldn’t stop, and I remember thinking that something bad was going to happen—that maybe I was going to pass out or something. I remember thinking that I was going to die,” said the former employee, who claims she was pushed out of the company after speaking with management about harassment that ensued after she tried to stop seeing him. “It compounded my feeling that I was being a dumb girl who got her feelings hurt.”
At the time, she thought “that it was just bad sex,” said the former employee, who also met Macias when she was 19 while a college student in NYC. “I just thought it was a bad sexual encounter, and I thought that that was normal.”
Dos Toros’s vice president of human resources Erica Retblatt responded to an email inquiry about the allegations against Macias by stating that the company “has zero-tolerance policy for sexual harassment of any kind.”
Macias was fired from Dos Toros in January 2014, after four years at the company for performance reasons, a source familiar with what happened at the company that year said. Another person said Macias told them it was due to changes within the company.
Retblatt told Gothamist the company is establishing a series of anti-harassment measures—new partnerships, training, and a code of conduct.
Twenty-four-year-old Bella Cipriani met him in February 2018 through working in the hospitality industry.
“Fuck boy culture is normalized so much in Bushwick, and there’s that boys club mentality. At first it just seemed like he was another player,” said Cipriani. In one night early on in their relationship, sex began consensually. But during the encounter, Cipriani claims Macias forcibly continued having anal sex with her after she told him stop multiple times and said that she was in pain.
“He just wouldn’t stop so I just gave up and kind of sat there,” she said. “My strength came back all at once and I was like what are you doing, get off me.”
In a follow-up text days after our interview, she added it was the abuse surrounding that one night of assault that impacted her the most.
“Only 1 night out of over 100 did he assault me and I was so wrapped up I didn’t even blame him for it,” wrote Cipriani, now a doula-in-training offering miscarriage and abortion support, both of which she experienced after becoming pregnant with Macias twice last year.
“He's not a big bad rapist you see on TV,” Cipriani said. “He fucks with your head, convinces you you’re crazy, and manipulates you into doing things you wouldn’t do if you knew the whole truth. And that is abuse.”
She added, “the lying, the mind games, the manipulation was so much worse and made me lose myself for so long.”
The women Gothamist spoke with had mixed feelings about filing a police report. They were either planning to, still considering, or didn’t want to discuss possible legal action. Another wants to advocate to make stealthing illegal and support other victims she has met recently.
Another former Dos Toros employee—who accuses Macias of repeatedly coercing her to not use a condom and forced anal sex, twice, with the behavior beginning while he was her boss at the company—said she fears being retraumatized if she were to go to police. Instead, she created and posted flyers of Macias, feeling a “responsibility to help protect [her] community,” said the Brooklyn resident, who declined to be named because she does not want others to know she made the flyers and fears retribution.
“I just felt like I wanted to warn other people, take matters into my own hands and going public about what happened to me and realizing that he did similar things to 30 other women,” she said.
After multiple attempts to reach Macias, his lawyer responded:
"We wanted to say that he takes these allegations very seriously," Macias's lawyer, Donald Yannella, told Gothamist. "He has gotten himself into counseling. And he and I need an opportunity to review and process the allegations but at this moment, upon the advise of counsel, he's not going to make a statement about the substance of the allegations." Yannella declined to detail what the counseling entailed, but emphasized Macias takes the allegations seriously.
An NYPD spokesperson, Detective Annette Shelton, says the department doesn’t comment on possible or current investigations, but urged sexual assault and rape victims to file complaints to the police. Reports of rape decreased from 163 cases in July 2019 to 153 last month, but the department says the crime is “underreported.”
A former Queens assemblymember proposed legislation three years ago to criminalize stealthing, which died in the Codes committee. Another iteration, which remained in committee as recently as January, would make removing or tampering with a sexually protective device without consent during any sexual intercourse, anal sex, or oral sex a crime under sexual misconduct laws. The proposal would make stealthing a class A misdemeanor under existing sexual misconduct laws in New York State, which is currently punishable up to one year. Congressional lawmakers have pressed the federal justice department on whether it tracks data on stealthing.
“The stealthing, the not using a condom, the coercion was very intense,” said J, a 27-year-old Bushwick resident, who met Macias through frequenting Archie’s and declined to be named for this article. She says Macias assaulted her in January by trying to take off her pants and attempting to have sex with her while she started to have a panic attack.
“I was like, ‘Okay, this person that I love is about to rape me,’ and it was just so horrifying,” she said, echoing another Bushwick resident’s experience of stealthing with Macias last summer.
Some women say Macias used his workplaces to meet women, and former employees at both Dos Toros and Archie’s said management did not adequately address complaints when they were raised. One former employee said in a blog post he “wished I had spoken out sooner” about Macias hitting on customers.
A former bartender at Archie’s told the Brooklyn Reader, which first reported on the allegations, that the company should’ve taken action previously, when two women raised Macias’s behavior to management. Another former Archie’s employee said on Instagram she had gone to management about mistreatment at work that began after she had confronted Macias for cheating on her two days before his firing, according to Eater.
Archie’s closed both locations in Bushwick and Williamsburg, a pick-up and delivery only spot, as allegations piled up. “Due to complex, personal circumstances, on top of the current global pandemic, there was no other choice” but to close, pizzeria spokesperson Lauren Sikora wrote in an email. The pizza joint had opened in 2014.
In response to allegations against Macias, she declined to comment on specifics.
"With any investigation, there are legalities, and we are bound by them, which prevents us from saying more," Sikora wrote. "We are required to uphold the confidentiality of the whole process—from the original complaint, through the investigation, through the resolution."
Sikora said that Macias was “no longer associated with Archie’s in any way,” as of July 14th, and “receives no further benefit from the company.”
The company did not confirm Macias’s role and how that changed over the years, but two former employees said he had been involved as an owner. State records show a new limited liability corporation under the pizzeria called “MACIAS BK LLC” was formed in May 2018, and a former employee says his pay-stubs were marked with such distinction.
The allegations, which spread rapidly on Instagram in recent weeks, come nearly two years after two former Archie’s employees say they had told management about Macias’s alleged serial abuse. The person who posted their statement on Instagram declined an interview beyond the statement.
“We’re not going to tell our stories because frankly, we already told them,” the two employees wrote.
A former waitress in the neighborhood, Jolee Falcone, 33, believes the allegations will lead to broader change in the industry.
“I believe that this will have a ripple effect,” said Falcone, who says Macias assaulted her after she had too many drinks to consent to sex in late summer 2017. “Now it’s like, ‘Okay we gotta do the formal thing and making sure the rest of the community is protected from him,’ but also, we need to take a look at the institutions that allowed this to happen. It’s not just Archie’s. It’s the whole industry.”