Ex-lover of Melrose Italian restaurant boss found guilty of extortion attempt

Melrose's Monte Cassino restaurant.
Melrose's Monte Cassino restaurant.

A restaurant waitress took revenge on her boss and former lover after being sacked by sending his wife 30 messages on social media telling her about their affair.

Joanna Wozniak also shared pictures, videos and text screenshots with other staff of her married lover Antonio Caterino via Facebook Messenger after he refused to meet her wage demands.

The 34-year-old also sent him a video she had taken of him assaulting her during an row and warned him: “That’s for starters – let’s see what we have for the main course.”

The mum of two ended up being charged with extortion by threatening to expose their affair if he did not pay her £300 a week wages and also breaching the 2003 Communications Act by sending offensive messages to his wife Sara, however.

Following a two-day trial at Selkirk Sheriff Court, Wozniak, of Torwoodlee Road in Galashiels, was found guilty of an amended charge of attempting to extort money from Mr Caterino by threats.

She was found not guilty of the offence relating to her messages because the sheriff ruled that though they were no doubt upsetting, they were not actually offensive.

Mr Caterino, proprietor of the Monte Cassino Italian restaurant in Melrose, told the trial he feared Wozniak was going to destroy his marriage and business after their affair of nine months ended.

Their relationship deteriorated on May 31 last year after they had a heated argument at the Anema e Core restaurant in Dalkeith, Midlothian, also being run by Mr Caterino at that time but since shut down.

On Monday, June 18, Wozniak sent him a message saying she was returning to work at the Melrose restaurant the following day, adding: “You will pay me £300 every week. That’s my rules. I will fight for my kids. I am very dangerous.”

Mr Caterino, 47, replied saying she would get paid the same as everyone else at the Palma Place restaurant, around £150 for three shifts, prompting more threatening messages including: “You will pay for this.”

He then decided to come clean to his wife Sara and admitted he’d had an affair with Wozniak.

The following day, when Wozniak returned to work, Mr Caterino sacked her and gave her a week’s wages.

Later that night, Mrs Caterino was contacted by a friend to say that she had been sent messages by Wozniak giving details of her affair with her husband.

Mrs Caterino told the trial that she then unblocked Wozniak on Facebook to see what the messages contained and explained: “On Messenger, there were videos of my husband, pictures of him and her together and lots of messages between them. There were about 30 messages.”

After hearing about the messages, Mr Caterino drove to a police station at 3am on June 20 to report the matter.

Asked how she felt, Mrs Caterino, 45, said: “I was sick, hurt. There was no need to do it to me.”

She told the trial how she was devastated after her husband admitted being unfaithful.

She said: “It was the day after my birthday. He said in a roundabout way he had been seeing her.

“I did not get from the start it was sexual until I asked him if he had been sleeping with her and he said yes.”

Wozniak, originally from Poland, first started working at the Italian restaurant in Melrose but offered to work at Dalkeith after Mr Caterino opened a new outlet there in June 2017.

He would often drive her from her home in Galashiels to Dalkeith, and an affair started around November of that year.

Wozniak told the court that she had spent nights in hotels with Mr Caterino in Glasgow, London and Manchester and he had invited her to his home in the Borders while his wife was away but she had not taken up that offer out of “respect”.

One of the reasons for their argument on May 31 was that he had changed his mind about taking her to London for a trip.

She said: “I was feeling used. We had nine months together and nothing happened. I wanted him to decide if he wanted to be with me.”

Wozniak admitted threatening to tell his wife about the affair after they argued but claimed she did not intend ever doing so.

However, after he told her that he’d confessed to his wife about their affair and she had been sacked, she changed her mind, explaining: “I knew he would not have told her the whole truth so I decided to contact her.”

She insisted she did not intend to hurt Mrs Caterino and said she’d apologised since.

After she was sacked, she also reported Mr Caterino in connection with the incident at the Dalkeith restaurant on May 31, 2018, and he ended up appearing at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on a domestic assault charge and was admonished.

Sheriff Peter Paterson told Wozniak her actions were those of a spurned lover and described her extortion attempt as being only “very minor”.

Defence lawyer Paul Smith said that Wozniak had since secured employment as a hotel duty manager but a conviction for attempted extortion could put that at risk.

He asked for an absolute discharge to be imposed instead, meaning that she would not have a criminal record.

Sheriff Paterson said that he would continue consideration of the case for three months and if she is of good behaviour over that time, he would grant Mr Smith’s request for an absolute discharge.