James Iannazzo is a now-former Merrill Lynch wealth manager who threw a drink at Robeks smoothie shop employees while unleashing a racist and vulgar rant during a viral incident in Fairfield, Connecticut, police say. He was arrested and charged with second-degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias, second-degree breach of peace and first-degree criminal trespass after the Saturday, January 22, 2022, incident, Fairfield Police said in a statement. Video of the incident was recorded by the employees and posted online, where it has been viewed millions of times.
Iannazzo, 48, told police he was upset because “his son having a severe allergic reaction and he went back to the store as a result,” police said. “During the investigation, employees reported that Iannazzo never told them about the peanut allergy but had only requested that there be no peanut butter in his drink,” according to police. According to police, officers were called to Iannazzo’s home about 1:39 p.m. for a juvenile who had an allergic reaction and had to be taken to a local hospital. Fairfield Police said Iannazzo then returned to the store and threw things, yelled at employees and refused to leave. He also made statements regarding one of the worker’s immigration status, leading to the hate crime charge, police said.
Iannazzo’s lawyer, Frank Riccio II, said in a statement, “Mr. Iannazzo wholeheartedly regrets the incident that took place at the Fairfield Robeks on January 22, 2022. Mr. Iannazzo placed an order at the Robeks and stressed to the staff that the product must not contain peanuts. His receipt acknowledged that the order should not contain peanut butter. His son has a life-threatening peanut butter allergy.”
Riccio, a Bridgeport-based attorney, added, “Upon drinking the Robeks smoothie, his son had a severe allergic reaction which required transport via ambulance to the hospital. When faced with a dire situation for his son, Mr. Iannazzo’s parental instinct kicked in and he acted out of anger and fear. He is not a racist individual and deeply regrets his statements and actions during a moment of extreme emotional stress.”
Bill Halldin, a spokesperson for Merrill Lynch and Bank of America, said in a statement, “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.”
Here’s what you need to know about James “Jim” Iannazzo:
1. The Video Shows Jim Iannazzo Telling the Teen Employees of Robeks They’re ‘Stupid F***** Ignorant High School Kids,’ Throwing the Drink at Them & Calling One Worker She’s a ‘F***** Immigrant Loser’
Fairfield Police said they received multiple calls about 2:26 p.m. from employees of the 2061 Black Rock Turnpike store, “reporting a customer was throwing things, yelling at employees, and refusing to leave.” Police said, “A short time later, Iannazzo returned to Robeks and confronted employees, yelling at them and demanding to know who had made the smoothie which contained peanuts, causing his child’s allergic reaction. When employees could not provide Iannazzo with the answer he became irate, yelling at the employees using a number of expletives.”
According to police, “He then threw a drink at an employee, which hit their right shoulder. The employee reported that they had no complaints of pain or injury. Iannazzo also made comments toward an employee referencing their immigration status. Iannazzo was told to leave multiple times by the employees but remained inside and continued to yell insults at the employees. Iannazzo then attempted to open a locked door that led to an “Employees Only” area where the employees were, behind the counter.”
Police said Iannazzo left Robeks before officers arrived, but he later turned himself in without incident after he was identified during an investigation. He was first identified on social media by TikTok user That DaneshGuy, who found Jim Iannazzo was the managing director of Merrill Lynch Wealth Management at his own firm, The Iannazzo Group, in Stamford, Connecticut. The video was first posted on TikTok by a 17-year-old employee, @cjjbreezy, and it has more than 15 million views.
The video was posted on social media by the Robeks workers and shared by ThatDaneshGuy, a popular TikTok user who exposes racist and other outrageous behavior in public and online, often using information to identify the people in viral videos. His TikTok video of the incident has more than 3 million views. “I’ve identified this man as James Iannazzo of @MerrillLynch being racist and assaulting a minor,” he tweeted.
The video shows Iannazzo at the counter of the Robeks drink store in Fairfield and yelling, “I want to speak to the person who made this drink. Is that you?” After the employees told him they’re not sure which of the four of them made the drink, he responded, “Stupid f***** ignorant high school kids.” One of the Robeks employees then tells him to leave after he asks to speak to the manager, informing him he can call corporate to make a complaint. Iannazzo then calls her a “f***** b****.”
The video then shows Iannazzo throwing the drink over the counter at the employees and again swearing at them multiple times. One of the workers can be heard saying, “I’m calling the police,” as Iannazzo walks toward the entrance to the employees-only section of the store. One of the workers tells him to “get the f*** out,” and he responds, “shut the f*** up. Stupid f***** idiot. You’re a f***** idiot. I want the f***** number.” He then yells, “You’re f***** immigrant loser,” and appears to be heading toward the door to the area behind the counter, which the employees are standing in front of to block as they call police.
In a follow up video, one of the employees said they are OK and revealed Iannazzo was arrested. But she said police told them it wasn’t considered assault because no one was injured. She added, “I will be pressing charges. But I’m good.”
2. The Teen Girl Who Posted the Video on TikTok Said They Had to Block the Door Because Iannazzo Tried to Get Behind the Counter Multiple Times
In an update to her original viral video, TikTok user @cjjbreezy said, whose real name is Charli Hill, “I just want to address that we did call police.” She said there were four teen girls working at the Robeks store when the incident happened.
“There was one girl, she was 16. Literally, it was like her second day,” Hill said in the TikTok video. “She was in the back, already called the police.” She said she and another co-worker had to block the door because “before I started recording he tried to get in multiple times.”
Hill added, “For anybody who is saying they would have handled it differently, like throwing stuff at him, that’s not going to make it better. It would have made stuff for us worse.” Hill’s friend and co-worker, 17-year-old Gianna Miranda, who was hit by the smoothie, said in the video, “I feel like if I would have thrown something back or spit in his face or did something just as he did, I feel like it would have just changed the whole thing. As much as I did want to, I just felt like it wasn’t really professional for me to do that.”
Miranda added she had to, “be the bigger person.” Hill said, “I heart everybody on TikTok for doing their thing and finding out who he was and all of his stuff.” She added, “thank you guys for all the concern,” but said they are OK.
Hill told NBC Connecticut, “It’s like such a shocker because we love our jobs and like, we feel super safe there. But now it’s not the same anymore. You just don’t know what could happen at any moment. It was a real shocker to everyone. Because who would ever think it’s ever gonna happen to me, but it did.”
3. Iannazzo Is a University of Connecticut Graduate Who Had Worked as a Financial Advisor Affiliated With Merrill Lynch Wealth Management Since 1995
According to his LinkedIn profile, Iannazzo has been a wealth management advisor and managing director affiliated with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management since November 1995. He graduated from UConn in 1995, according to his LinkedIn. Iannazzo is originally from Norwalk, Connecticut, and graduated from Norwalk High School in 1991. He wrote on his profile, “Since joining Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in 1995, I’ve worked with a loyal and growing number of clients whose lives demand fluency in a wide range of wealth considerations.”
Iannazzo added he works with, “Active and retired corporate executives, investment professionals, physicians, attorneys, accountants and entrepreneurs. Most clients are financially sophisticated, yet intergenerational wealth transfer or long-term care considerations may be neglected.”
Iannazzo wrote on LinkedIn, “My sensitivity to client needs during difficult times – the loss of a spouse or job, illness, or when transitioning to retirement – is critical to being an effective financial advisor. Superior wealth management (from accumulation through distribution) requires my ongoing attention. Going the extra mile for clients is never going out of my way.”
4. Iannazzo Ran The Iannazzo Group & Lives in Fairfield With His Wife & 3 Kids
Iannazzo said on LinkedIn he is married and he and his wife have three children. Public records show Iannazzo and his wife bought a $1.3 million home in the Southport section of Fairfield in 2021. The couple previously lived elsewhere in Fairfield, according to property records.
Iannazzo said in a statement to WTNH, “My actions at Robeks were wrong, and I deeply regret them. They do not reflect my values or my character. I feel terrible that I lost my composure so completely. After he started to drink his smoothie, my son lost the capacity to breathe properly; his lips and face swelled up, and he required an EpiPen shot, but it did not offer him relief. I called 911. My son then went to the bathroom, threw up and fell unconscious to the floor. He threw up again. My wife gave him another EpiPen while I called 911 again. Thank God, he is doing okay.”
He added in the statement it was “the worst nightmare of every parent whose child has a similar allergy,” and said he thanked the first responders who helped his family. Iannazzo said, “I was out of my mind with fear for him when I returned to Robeks, and I wish I had not done so. I also wish they had been more careful preparing my son’s beverage. I will be extending my apologies personally to the Robeks organization, particularly the staff that was working there that night.”
His company’s website says, “The Iannazzo Group believes that good client relationships are built through teamwork and client involvement, delivered through our advisors, client associates and access to the global resources of Merrill. Our goal is to be your primary source for financial advice and guidance. We want you to value the dedication and diligence we provide at each step of the wealth management process.”
His website adds, “A lifelong Connecticut resident, Jim graduated from the University of Connecticut with a Bachelors degree in Finance. He and his wife … are proud parents of three young children and reside in Fairfield, CT. When he’s not coaching his kids in baseball and basketball, Jim and his family enjoy bike riding, all kinds of sports, and traveling together. Jim also actively volunteers at community events and supports several non-profit organizations in the area.”
Iannazzo said on his company website, “In March of 2019, Jim Iannazzo was recognized by Barron’s as one of ‘America’s Top 1,200 Advisors: State by State’ for the fifth year in a row. Jim was also named to the 2019 Forbes ‘Best-in-State Wealth Advisors’ list for the second consecutive year.” He said on the site, “It’s gratifying to bring clients my experience and energy. Some clients have concentrated stock and need to diversify their portfolio. Business owners may want input on an exit strategy. Others want to responsibly transfer wealth to their kids. Each client has a specific need and resides at a different stage of wealth. I enjoy helping people anticipate, identify, and achieve meaningful goals – by bringing them value that extends beyond ordinary wealth management.”
5. Iannazzo Was Charged With 1 Felony & 2 Misdemeanors & Released Pending a Court Appearance in Connecticut State Superior Court on February 7, 2022
Fairfield Police said in a statement that James Iannazzo was issued a court appearance date of February 7, 2022, at Bridgeport Superior Court and was released. The second-degree intimidation based on bigotry or bias charge is a class D felony. According to Connecticut state law, a class D felony is punishable by up to 1 to 5 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $5,000.
Iannazzo was also charged with misdemeanor criminal trespass in the first-degree, which is a class A misdemeanor. According to Connecticut law, a class A misdemeanor is punishable by up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. Iannazzo was additionally charged with second-degree breach of peace, which is a class B misdemeanor. Connecticut law says a class B misdemeanor is punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
When asked on Twitter why no assault charge was filed, the Fairfield Police responded, “CT’s Assault statute requires the accused to cause injury, which in this case did not occur.” Robeks has not commented about the incident.
Robeks said in a statement to NBC Connecticut, “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.”