Aug. 01--BELLEVILLE -- A disabled veteran who uses a portable oxygen tank has admitted putting sewing needles into packaged meat at a Shop 'n Save store here, and told the FBI he doesn't know why.
Officials identified seven incidents and said that one buyer reported being stuck in the hand and one found a needle in her mouth but that no serious injuries resulted.
Felony charges were announced Thursday against Ronald G. Avers, 68, who lives in the 600 block of East B Street in Belleville. He was held pending a detention hearing Aug. 4. Avers was named on seven counts of violating the Product Packaging Protection Act and if convicted could face 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each.
Security video led to Avers, who carried oxygen and used motorized carts when shopping at the store, at 4201 North Belt West. The charges allege incidents as early as Sept. 4, 2013, and as recent as July 12.
"Every now and then I would stick one in a hamburger," Avers said, according to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent Daniel D. Cook. He added, "... mostly hamburger, a couple times I did it with a roast, maybe a pork chop every now and then."
Cook wrote that Avers said he "didn't know what he was thinking at the time and he had no reason for doing it." The agent also said Avers said he did it "just for the hell of it," and "it was just stupidity, I didn't want to hurt nobody."
Court documents indicate Avers has not worked in 15 to 20 years and lives on a $2,000 monthly Veterans Administration disability check and $600 in Social Security benefits.
The documents say Avers told the FBI he does his shopping at that store and never tampered with food anywhere else.
U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton stated, "I want to assure the public that, while our investigation is ongoing, we do not, at this time, believe that the suspect acted at any other markets or stores, or that he was working with any other persons."
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