Cafe Owner Arrested for Assaulting Special Needs Employee
MIDDLEBORO — The owner of a café that promised to employ people with intellectual disabilities has been arrested for allegedly assaulting one such employee.
According to Middleboro Police Chief Joe Perkins, 53-year-old Charles G. El-Helou was arrested Friday following a two-week investigation, after police received a report that an adult male with intellectual disabilities, working to help El-Helou open the Hugs & Yums Coffee Lounge at 51 Center Street, had been assaulted by El-Helou.
“Hopefully this is an eye-opener for the community,” Perkins said. “My concern is preventing the victimization of vulnerable people in our community.”
Perkins said a witness and the victim reported the assault to police, who then brought the complaint to a court magistrate today in Wareham District Court following the investigation. A warrant was issued and El-Helou, a resident of 17 Foster Street in Brockton with previous arrests for fraud, was arrested Friday evening on charges of assault and battery on a person with an intellectual disability.
According to Perkins, the assault came about after El-Helou tried to get the victim to sign over the title of his truck to El-Helou, and when the victim refused, the situation escalated from there.
As previously reported, the Hugs & Yums Coffee Lounge was intended to be a “community service coffee lounge project” created by non-profit Spark of Hopes. It was to be the first of its kind in Massachusetts.
Perkins said that didn’t seem to be the environment El-Helou was setting up as he prepared to open.
“In my opinion, this suspect had some unethical business practices,” Chief Perkins said. “He lacked the credibility and integrity, in my opinion, to open a business like that.”
UPDATED (8:45 p.m.): Middleboro Police have issued a press release with additional information:
On Thursday, June 20, Middleborough detectives spoke with an Assonet woman who reported that her 25-year-old son had allegedly been assaulted by El-Helou. The woman's son had started working as a painter and laborer in late May at the not-yet-opened Hugs & Yums Coffee Lounge, which is owned by El-Helou. According to the report, on May 31, the suspect allegedly tried to get the man to sign his vehicle's title over to him by promising to buy the man a new truck from a dealership. The man refused and later reported the interaction to his mother.
A few days later, during a June 3 event at the Center Street business, the employee allegedly told El-Helou that he could not come to work the next day because his vehicle was being repaired. At that time, El-Helou allegedly claimed the vehicle belonged to him and grabbed the man by the neck and made a growling sound before releasing him.
The victim continued to work at the business until June 14, but was never paid for any of his labor, despite filling out a W2 and other employment forms. The victim's uncle accompanied him to the business on June 14 to collect his tools, and after a conversation with the uncle, El-Helou allegedly gave the victim a quantity of cash.
Middleborough Police Detectives made a report and filed for an arrest warrant at Wareham District Court, which was authorized by a magistrate on Friday. El-Helou was arrested late Friday afternoon without incident.
El-Helou is known to police.
"In this instance, we allege that the suspect withheld compensation and assaulted his intellectually disabled employee while trying to force him to sign over the title to his motor vehicle," Chief Perkins said. "This is a disturbing and unfortunate situation, in which we believe vulnerable citizens were being taken advantage of, and we urge all of our residents and families to be vigilant."
The investigation remains active and ongoing by Middleborough Police Detectives, and additional charges may be added.
The case has also been reported to the Massachusetts Disabled Persons Protection Commission and a report will be filed with the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office on Monday.
El-Helou was ordered held on $500 bail pending arraignment Monday in Wareham District Court.