Pizza isn’t just a tasty meal, it’s also proved to be a pretty damn good detective.
Over the past few years, pies have helped crack half a dozen high-profile crimes.
And just yesterday, social media provocateur Andrew Tate became the latest to be done in by the dough, after he and his brother Tristan were detained by Romanian officials thanks to a pizza box, which alerted authorities to his location.
Pizza deliveries have tipped cops off to international fugitives and preserved DNA evidence that blew open a gruesome DC-area quadruple homicide. Most recently in Illinois, a mugging of a pizza man led investigators to criminals who had just murdered a man in Georgia.
Call it a slice of justice.
“Pizza hunger trumps better judgment,” says Candice DeLong, a former FBI criminal profiler and host of “Deadly Women” on Investigation Discovery.
“Because none of these people would have been in prison today if they hadn’t picked up the phone and called up for a Domino’s pie.”
Pizza enthusiasm knows no bounds — especially among these crooks.
Arrested by Pizza Box
Andrew Tate’s ego and appetite may have landed him in serious trouble.
During a Twitter feud with 19-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg more befitting middle schoolers, Tate, 36 boasted about his fleet of gas guzzling cars.
When Thunberg responded, “yes, please do enlighten me. email me at firstname.lastname@example.org,” Tate took the bait and dished out an ill-fated response.
He posted a video of himself asking someone off camera to “make sure that these boxes are not recycled,” as he is handed two pies from Romanian chain, Jerry’s Pizza.
This reportedly was all authorities needed to know that he was in the country — and authorities in tactical gear raided his villa.
Tate and his brother have been accused of holding two young women — one with American citizenship and one Romanian — against their will in Tate’s villa. During this time, they reported being “sexually exploited” and forced to participate in pornographic demonstrations that were documented and spread throughout social media platforms. They were questioned on April 11 but released. But during the raid, police recovered an array of weapons, including several firearms, swords and a hachet.
Over the years, the former kickboxer has been banned by various social media platforms, including Twitter, Instagram and Youtube for promoting misogyny and hate speech.
While the pizza box may have spelled the downfall of the incendiary influencer, it’s been a huge boon for Jerry’s, which has amassed a flood of five star reviews online.
Super (Pizza) Man
They messed with the wrong pizza guy.
Napoleon Harris III was a linebacker for the Minnesota Vikings, then a state senator, and finally an entrepreneur — opening two Beggars Pizza shops in Illinois.
On the night of Sept. 6, 2016 the 250-pound ex-gridiron warrior decided to personally handle any late-night orders at his Harvey, Illinois, location after telling his delivery person to go home.
When the 37-year-old Harris arrived at the delivery location, there was a man waiting for him on the porch — and three others who jumped out of the bushes and tried to choke him to death.
Harris fought back, though the crooks managed to steal his wallet — and the pizza — before fleeing in a car. Harris hopped into his car, called the police and chased them to a lumberyard.
By the time the cops arrived, the men had fled, but the police found blood in their vehicle, which had been registered to Lester Roy Jones, a 44-year-old man whose body was found in an abandoned house in Georgia a few days later. It was Jones’ blood inside the car, and investigators discovered that three of the four suspects who jumped Harris had lured Jones with the Grindr dating app before murdering him, dumping his body in a house and heading to Chicago, where they encountered the long arm of the pizza man.
With the help of Harris’ descriptions of the perps, investigators arrested Malik Mayer, Lawrence Hines and a juvenile. US Marshals are still after the fourth suspect.
Perhaps the most ironic pizza detective work involved the case of superstar vegan chef Sarma Melngailis, who revolutionized the New York culinary scene with her Pure Food and Wine raw-food restaurant.
She had celebrity devotees like Alec Baldwin and Woody Harrelson, an Ivy League pedigree and a lithe figure honed by years of vegan living.
But desperate times call for animal products.
Melngailis and her grifter hubby, Anthony Strangis, were on the lam for 10 months after allegedly stealing $2 million from the business and stiffing employees.
In May of 2016, the foodie fugitives were nabbed in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, after ordering a Domino’s cheese pizza and chicken wings to their Fairfield Inn & Suites room. Strangis tipped off police because he used his own name while ordering. The pair were charged with 24 counts of theft, labor fraud and tax crime charges.
A Rich Slice
Perhaps Domino’s should get some sort of commendation from federal law enforcement agencies because in December, a call to them helped solve an international manhunt that captivated the nation.
Ethan Couch, otherwise known as the “Affluenza Teen,” fled from Texas with his mother after a video surfaced of him playing beer pong, which was potentially a violation of his probation. Instead of reporting to a court hearing, Couch and his mother, Tonya, high-tailed it out of town.
The 18-year-old had already fueled outrage in 2013, when he was convicted of killing four people in a drunk-driving crash. The spoiled teen was spared jail time because his defense successfully argued that his sheltered upbringing in Texas left him ill equipped to comprehend the severity of his horrific actions.
After he and his mother fled their home state, pursuing US Marshals got their break after one of the Couches’ cellphones was used to order a Domino’s pizza in December 2015.
“They were doomed from the start,” says DeLong. “Affluent suburbanites aren’t necessarily equipped to be on the lam and not get caught.”
Authorities traced the call to a home in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
Though mother and son were gone by the time authorities arrived, the pizza-craving duo were soon nabbed on the street near the seaside promenade.
The Telltale Crust
Businessman Savvas Savopoulos, his wife, Amy, 10-year-old son Philip and housekeeper Veralicia Figueroa were held captive overnight in the family mansion in May 2015. They were brutally murdered before their home in the tony Woodley Park section of Washington, DC, was set ablaze. Firefighters discovered the grisly scene.
Before the murders, the killer had demanded a ransom of $40,000. The funds were delivered by an assistant to Savopoulos, which prompted numerous theories about who could be responsible for the reprehensible crimes.
But in the end, it came down to DNA on a Domino’s pizza crust.
And it was left by Daron Wint, an ex-con and former employee of Savopoulos’.
During the standoff, Amy ordered Domino’s and asked the deliveryman to simply leave it on the porch. Wint must have scarfed it down and left the crust behind. A manhunt was launched from DC to Brooklyn. Investigators found Wint near the Maryland-DC border, arrested him and charged him with 12 counts of first-degree murder.
“Crime makes people like this hungry,” says DeLong. “It does not spoil their appetite. And they generally aren’t the type of people to go out for a wholesome meal.”
Sometimes pizza is a tool of intervention. In 2015, a story circulated on Reddit about a woman who called 911 and “ordered” a large pie so as not to tip off her assailant.
When the dispatcher told the woman she had called 911, she calmly responded, “Yeah, I know. Can I have a large with half pepperoni, half mushroom and peppers?”
When pressed again about her call, the woman stayed the course.
“Ummm . . . I’m sorry, you know you’ve called 911, right?”
“Yeah, do you know how long it will be?”
The quick-thinking 911 dispatcher checked the address and saw there had been multiple domestic violence calls to the home. When cops arrived, they saw the woman was beaten up and her boyfriend was drunk. He was arrested.
Media outlets tracked down Keith Weisinger, the dispatcher and author of the Reddit post. Now an attorney in Portland, Oregon, he said the call happened about 10 years ago.
“Whether she had thought of this trick before, or it just came to her, she indicated the urgency of her situation without giving away the true purpose of her call,” he told Buzzfeed.
DeLong says pizza may be responsible for more detective work than has been reported.
“I think it’s probably more common than you know,” she says.
“It wasn’t a good end of the day for the criminals, no matter how many free toppings they got.”