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Man charged after allegedly placing needles in meat packages in Belleville grocery

EAST ST. LOUIS – A local man was charged federally this week for a case in which he is alleged to have placed needles in packaged meats in a Shop ‘n Save grocery store in Bellevile.

Ronald G. Avers, 68, of Belleville, was charged by criminal complaint on July 30, with seven violations of the Product Packaging Protection Act of 2002, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today.

Avers appeared in federal court in East St. Louis earlier today for an initial appearance. A detention hearing will be held on Aug. 4. Each violation of the act carries a term of imprisonment of up to ten years, a fine of up to $250,000, and a term of supervised release of up to three years.

The complaint alleges that the Federal Bureau of Investigation learned on July 9 from Shop ‘n Save that needles had been found in packaged meat products offered for sale. Shop ‘n Save reported seven incidents, all of which were associated with its location on North Belt West Road in Belleville. The recoveries were made during the time period of May 2013, to July 2014.

The complaint alleges that one customer found a needle in her mouth while eating; another reported being stuck in the hand. In other instances, customers said that they found the needles in purchased meat products but were not injured. On one occasion, an employee detected the presence of a needle in a meat product.

“Shop ‘n Save conducted an internal investigation and provided information to the
Federal Bureau of Investigation which directly led to the identification of Ronald G. Avers as a suspect.” said Wigginton.

“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. I commend the time, money and effort that Shop ‘n Save expended in assisting investigators in this case. As a corporate citizen, their assistance to law enforcement was invaluable. “

The case is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Suzanne M. Garrison.

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