A man who tampered with supermarket pizza dough by putting razor blades and screws in the product was sentenced to nearly five years in federal prison Thursday, the Associated Press reported.
Customers in certain Maine and New Hampshire stores bought and discovered the compromised dough in 2020, spurring investigations and concern among their communities.
In an agreement with prosecutors, Nicholas Mitchell, 39, pleaded guilty in June to one of two counts of tampering with a consumer product, the AP reported. One of those counts was dropped as part of the plea agreement, Foster’s Daily Democrat reported.
The native of Dover, New Hampshire, was also ordered to pay almost $230,000 in restitution to Hannaford supermarkets, which carried and sold the tainted pizza dough.
Prosecutors said that three customers purchased the product in a Hannaford store in Saco, Maine. The compromised dough was also found at locations in Sanford, Maine, and Dover, according to the AP.
Mitchell previously worked for the company that made the dough brand with which he tampered, but Saco police said in a post on their Facebook page that a review of surveillance footage indicated that the product was tampered with inside the store.
The discovery of the tampering prompted Hannaford to recall the brand’s dough and cheese products sold from all of the chain’s 184 stores across five states within a period of a few months, the Democrat reported.
Saco police issued a warrant for Mitchell’s arrest after being flagged about the product tampering. He was ultimately arrested in October 2020 by a Dover police officer who was able to locate him at an address in the New Hampshire city, according to the Democrat.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
The sentencing hearing proceeded even though Mitchell was recovering from a recent bout of COVID-19 contracted in jail.
The judge told him the nature of the crime spread fear in the community and Mitchell tearfully apologized for his actions.
Mitchell was a former employee of It’ll Be Pizza. The Scarborough, Maine, company makes several brands of dough, including the Portland Pie Co. dough, which was tampered with by Mitchell.
Court documents indicated that Mitchell’s life spiraled out of control during the pandemic when his girlfriend lost her hair salon and Mitchell was arrested following a domestic disturbance, leaving him homeless and living in his car. He was later fired from his job at It’ll Be Pizza.
Under the agreement, Mitchell agreed not to appeal a sentence that is no greater than four years and nine months, according to court documents. The maximum penalty for product tampering is 10 years in prison.