State

Man denied bond in Illinois meat-tampering case

EAST ST. LOUIS – A 68-year-old southwestern Illinois man accused of inserting sewing needles a federal prosecutor called “booby traps” into packaged meats at his hometown supermarket was ordered Monday to remain jailed pending his trial.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephen Williams, after a hearing, sided with federal prosecutors in denying Ronald Avers’ request to be eligible for release on bond.

Avers, of Belleville, was charged last week with seven felony product-tampering counts.

Investigators allege Avers slipped sewing needles into various packaged meat items at a Shop ‘n Save in Belleville from May 2013 through last month.

One customer eventually bit into a needle, and another customer got stuck in the hand by a needle in a steak. No serious injuries were reported from the needles, which the FBI has said turned up in everything from ground beef to roasts and steaks.

The FBI says Avers told investigators he did it “just for the hell of it” — something that federal prosecutor Suzanne Garrison argued in a court filing opposing any bond for Avers reflected the man’s “utter indifference to the noteworthy risk of serious bodily injury or death that is associated with consumption of a needle.”

Garrison, calling the needles “booby traps,” also argued that Avers posed an economic danger to the community in that any re-offense “subjects consumers to the risk of serious bodily injury and retailers to the loss of product and of consumer goodwill.”

Avers insisted he had no justification for such tampering, calling it a “stupid idea,” FBI Special Agent Daniel Cook said in an affidavit filed with the criminal complaint last week.

“’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.’”

A message left Monday with Avers’ public defender, Todd Schultz, was not immediately returned.

Each tampering count is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 fine.

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