Police: Owner of Unopened Cafe Assaulted Intellectually Disabled Worker

The owner of a Massachusetts coffee lounge that has not yet opened has been charged with assaulting a mentally disabled worker.

Police said Hugs & Yums owner Charles El-Helou, 53, of Brockton, attacked a 25-year-old man who was working as a painter and laborer at the Middleborough business.

The victim's mother, a Freetown woman, told police El-Helou tried to persuade her son to sign over his vehicle's title to him, allegedly promising to buy him a new truck.

On June 3, police said, the victim told El-Helou that his vehicle was being repaired and that he was unable to come to work the following day. El-Helou allegedly claimed to own the vehicle, then "grabbed the man by the neck and made a growling sound before releasing him," according to police.

Police said the man worked for Hugs & Yums until June 14, but was not paid. When he returned with his uncle to retrive his tools, El-Helou gave him "a quantity of cash," police said.

El-Helou was arrested Friday and charged with assault and battery on a person with an intellectual disability. Police say he is known to the department and more charges could be filed against him.

"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 to be vigilant."

Hugs & Yums, whose logo features the slogan "Where the care begins," describes itself on its Facebook page as "a small business run by employees with Down Syndrome and special needs."

El-Helou was held on $500 bail and will be arraigned Monday in Wareham District Court. It was not immediately clear if he had an attorney.

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