A customer whose tirade against employees at a Robeks smoothie shop went viral has been charged by police and fired from his job as a Merrill Lynch wealth advisor.
James Iannazzo ordered a smoothie from a Robeks outlet in Connecticut on Saturday for his son, who has a peanut allergy. He asked for the drink to not contain peanut butter, but he did not mention the allergy, the Fairfield Police Department wrote in a statement.
The video shows him demanding three employees tell him who made the drink, but they say they are not sure and that he should call the franchise’s corporate office with the complaint. The confrontation quickly escalates, with Iannazzo hurling obscenities at the employees, calling them “f****** stupid, f****** ignorant high school kids.”
Iannazzo then throws a drink at one of them, hitting her shoulder and prompting another worker to call 911. (The employee did not suffer any injuries, according to police.) When the employee demands he leave, he continues yelling at her, calling her a “f****** immigrant loser.” The video then shows him trying unsuccessfully to enter a door leading to an employees-only area of the shop.
Iannazzo left the scene before police arrived and later turned himself in, according to police.
A video of the confrontation has been viewed more than half a million times on Twitter as of Sunday afternoon.
Merrill Lynch spokesperson Bill Halldin confirmed to Newsweek on Sunday that Iannazzo had been fired.
“Our company does not tolerate behavior of this kind. We immediately investigated and have taken action. This individual is no longer employed at our firm,” the statement said.
Iannazzo’s attorney, Frank J. Riccio, wrote in a statement that he “stressed to the staff” that the smoothie must not contain peanuts, which is reflected by the receipt.
“His son has a life-threatening peanut allergy. Upon drinking the Robeks smoothie, his son had a severe allergic reaction which required transport via ambulance to the hospital,” the statement said. “When faced with a dire situation, Mr. Iannazzo’ parental instinct kicked in and he acted out of anger and fear. He is not a racist and deeply regrets his statement and actions during a moment of extreme emotion.”
Authorities charged him with intimidation based on bigotry or bias in the second degree, breach of peace in the second degree and criminal trespass in the first degree. He is set to appear in court February 7.
Robeks spokesperson Barbara Caruso wrote in a statement to Newsweek: “At Robeks, our priority is to protect both store team members and guests. The company and its franchisees have a zero-tolerance policy for this type of behavior, and we are thankful that the franchisee’s team members were not physically hurt. We appreciate the swift action by law enforcement and the judicial system in pursuing criminal charges for this unacceptable behavior. “
Iannazzo is still listed as employed on Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, where he has one denied complaint from April 2015.
Forbes in 2021 ranked Iannazzo as one of the 25 best in-state wealth advisors. He has worked for Merrill Lynch for about 26 years.
“It’s good to see financial institutions taking clear, decisive action in response to such foul, racist and misogynist behavior,” said Morgan Simon, co-founder of the investment firm Candide Group and author of Real Impact: The New Economics of Social Change. “And in the long-term, it’s important to address the fact that racism is a cancer within finance, period, with less than 2% of global assets managed by firms owned by women or people of color.”
Updated with a statement from Robeks.