EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. (AP) — A 68-year-old Illinois man was jailed without bond Thursday after being accused by federal prosecutors of inserting sewing needles into packaged meat "just for the hell of it" at a grocery store in his hometown at least seven times over more than a year.
The criminal complaint filed Wednesday against Ronald Avers said one buyer of boneless chuck roast at the Shop 'n Save store in Belleville just east of St. Louis later bit into one of the needles, and a needle slipped into a steak stuck another customer.
SuperValu Inc., the Minnesota-based corporate parent of the Shop 'n Save chain, stressed that none of the cases resulted in serious injury, and that the alleged tampering was isolated to only the meat section of one store.
"With every customer that brought it to our attention, none reported needing medical attention as a result of the tampering," said Jeff Swanson, a SuperValu spokesman. "We have no reason to believe any tampering occurred outside of that one store."
Avery, who made a brief court appearance Thursday on the seven tampering counts each punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine, was ordered jailed pending a scheduled detention hearing Monday.
A message left Thursday with Avers' federal public defender was not immediately returned.
FBI Special Agent Daniel Cook, in an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint, wrote that Shop 'n Save alerted him July 9 of the tampering, which dated to May of last year, when a customer first reported finding a needle in a package of ground beef. Roughly four months later, Cook wrote, a store employee found a needle sticking out of a package of pork chops. Customers later reported finding needles in everything from ground beef to roasts and steaks.
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