A man has been accused of putting sewing needles in packaged meat his local grocery store, according to an Aug. 1 report by My Fox Chicago. The incident took place in East St. Louis, Ill. and this is not the first time he has done this. The report states that he put sewing needles in meat packages at least seven times.
Ronald Avers, 68, is accused of inserting sewing needles in meat packages at the Shop 'n Save store in Belleville, which is east of St. Louis. One customer bought boneless chuck roast and bit into one of the needles. Another person had been stuck with a needle that was stuck into their steak.
SuperValu, Inc., the parent company of Shop 'n Save, assured the public that none of the cases caused serious injuries. They also said that the tampering was isolated to the meat department of only one store. Jeff Swanson, spokesman for SuperValu said,
"With every customer that brought it to our attention, none reported needing medical attention as a result of the tampering."
Avers appeared in court Thursday on seven counts of tampering. Under the law, he could be sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. He was ordered to stay in jail pending a detention hearing on Monday.
On July 9, Shop 'n Save told authorities about the tampering and the incidents are dated back to May 2013. The first report was a needle found in a package of ground beef. FBI Special Agent Daniel Cook wrote in an affidavit that approximately four months later, an employee of the store discovered a needle sticking out of a package of pork chops. Later reports included sewing needles found in various meat, such as ground beef, roasts and steaks.
The Shop 'n Save security team used surveillance footage to identify the man. Avers was approached on Tuesday when he entered the store, riding a motorized scooter and using an oxygen tank. After he bought some items, investigators approached Avers outside the store. He allowed them to search his vehicle and an open package of sewing needles was discovered in the center console. When asked about it, he claimed they were to mend his pants that tore when he was camping. Eventually, he acknowledged that he used the sewing needles for other things.
Avers, who has no criminal history, but does have traffic offenses, said that every once in a while he would stick a needle in a hamburger. He said while most of the time it was ground beef, a few times he did put one in a roast and maybe a pork chop. He also admitted that it was a stupid idea, but during an interview he said two times that he did it "just for the hell of it." Then he claimed that he didn't want to hurt anyone.
SuperValu's spokesman says that anyone who bought fresh meat from the store before July 12 can get an exchange or a refund.