MANHATTAN (CN) — For the elderly owner of a Midtown espresso shop, an assistant's plans to open up open up a retail gelato and pastry store some dozen blocks downtown has left a bitter aftertaste.
Selvaggia Pizzetti worked as an assistant to the 94-year-old owner of an espresso machine sales and service company on West 44th Street in Manhattan.
More than half his age, the 43-year-old Pizzetti helped the old man pay his bills and make payments. Prosecutors say she took advantage of that role in transferring $60,000 from his personal bank account to her own in June 2013.
Months later, Pizzetti filed papers to incorporate a desert shop in Chelsea named Maestri Artigiani and doing business as "Crave.It."
Well-reviewed on Yelp, where one happy customer called it a "gem," the eatery struggled to stay in the black on a bustling stretch of Sixth Avenue. Prosecutors claim that Pizzetti used her boss's money dozens more times for rent, design, construction and salary expenses.
Now closed, "Crave.It" apparently got swallowed up by a Jenny Craig weight-loss center, which Google shows at its former address.
Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance charged Pizzetti on Friday with stealing $1.1 million from her unidentified ex-employer — a process that allegedly involved 22 unauthorized wire transfers over more than three years.
"This defendant is accused of stealing more than a million dollars from her 94-year-old employer to bankroll a pie-in-the-sky business venture," Vance announced on Friday.
Pizzetti's attorney did not respond to a telephone request for comment.
Whether intentionally or not, Vance's pun on "pie in the sky" invokes a long history of revolutionary fervor of workers seizing the wealth of their bosses.
Joe Hill, an immigrant worker, union folk legend and musician, coined the phrase in his song "The Preacher and the Slave," a satire of the Salvation Army and organized religion, more generally.
The Marxist undercurrents of Hill's tunes reflected his membership in Industrial Workers of the World, a radical union dedicated to the overthrow of global capitalism.
Sung on picket lines and in union halls, Hill's most-well-known anthem mocked a morality of low-wage work for afterlife rewards with the refrain: "You will eat, by and by, / In that glorious land in the sky; / Work and pray, live on hay; / You'll have pie in the sky when you die."
To this day, Hill's admirers believe that verses like these led Utah authorities to frame him on murder charges for which he was executed by firing squad in 1915. He was later immortalized in the poem "I Dreamed I Saw Joe Hill, Last Night," first set to music by civil-rights icon Paul Robeson and also crooned by Joan Baez at Woodstock.
Today, Hill's rallying cry no longer carries its old political implications in popular use, and is generally remembered as a cliche for any harebrained, impractical or unattainable goal.
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