A Belleville, IL man has been charged with putting needles into packaged meat at a grocery store.
Ronald Avers, 68, was arrested after police said the store report needles being found in seven different packages of meat between May of 2013 and July of 2014.
Avers has been charged with seven violations of the Product Packaging Protection Act of 2002.
Police said they do not believe Avers targeted any other stores.
Avers could face up to 10 years in prison for each violation, a fine of $250,000 and supervised release for up to three years.
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.
Using its surveillance camera footage, Cook wrote, the Shop 'n Save's security crew identified a suspect seen manipulating meat items he never ended up buying and alerted Cook on Tuesday when that man again entered the store, riding a motorized scooter and using a portable oxygen tank.
After buying various items, Cook said, the man was approached by investigators outside the store and allowed them to search his truck, where an open package of sewing needles was found in a center console.
Identifying himself as Ronald Avers, Cook wrote, the man insisted he kept the needles on hand to mend pants he tore while camping, then gradually acknowledged he used the needles more inappropriately.
"'Every now and then I would stick one in a hamburger,'" Cook quoted Avers as saying before the man expounded, "'Mostly hamburger, a couple of times I did it with a roast, maybe a pork chop every now and then.'"
Avers insisted he had no justification for such tampering, calling it a "stupid idea," Cook wrote.
"Avers said during the interview two times he inserted sewing needles into packaged meat products, 'just for the hell of it.'" the FBI agent wrote, adding that Avers continued: "It was stupidity. I didn't want to hurt nobody."
Online court records show that Avers has a history of traffic offenses but no previous criminal background.
Swanson, the SuperValu spokesman, said any customer who bought fresh meat from the store before July 12 can get a refund or exchange it.
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