Crime & Courts

Woodstock man accused of blackmailing Panera

WOODSTOCK – A Woodstock man is facing felony charges after authorities said he tried to blackmail Panera Bread and expose information about the company.

Charles R. Wagner, 47, of 300 Leah Lane, Apt. 1D, was a former employee of Panera. After being fired earlier this month, he made threats against the company, Woodstock Police said.

He is accused of demanding an undisclosed amount of money, or he would reveal what police called harmful information intended to damage the reputation of Panera Bread and its Missouri-based parent company.

Wagner turned himself in Jan. 24, on one count of intimidation, a Class 3 felony.

The police investigation included "covert surveillance techniques," Woodstock Police said, including conversations between Wagner and undercover officers.

Detectives were unable to verify or locate any evidence to substantiate Wagner's claims about the restaurant chain.

"He never got into specifics as far as what he had," Woodstock Police Detective Sgt. Jeff Parsons said. "He was keeping that close to the chest, but he made it clear if he wasn't given what he requested, he would disseminate information and videos to the media that that would discredit the Panera chain."

The investigation is ongoing and detectives are searching for another individual who may be involved.

Police declined to comment on what role Wagner had as an employee at Panera, or for which location he worked. Panera Bread's director of human resources said the company would not comment on the arrest.

Wagner posted bond, or $2,500, at the Woodstock Police Department and was released the day of his arrest. His charge carries a possible sentence of between two to five years in prison.

His next court date is Jan. 28.

The McHenry County Sheriff's Office assisted with the investigation.

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