Nicholas R. Mitchell, 39, has agreed to plead guilty to putting razor blades and pieces of metal in pre-packaged pizza dough. Mitchell was arrested last October after a customer found a razor blade in a package of Portland Pie pizza dough purchased at a Hannaford grocery store in Saco, Maine. A review of surveillance tape caught Mitchell red-handed. He initially pleaded not guilty and has been in jail since his arrest; his bail was posted at $20,000 cash. Overwhelming video evidence compelled Mr. Mitchell to re-think his plea.
“Had the case proceeded to trial, the government would produce evidence that would establish beyond a reasonable doubt that on October 5, 2020, this defendant knowingly tampered with pizza dough by placing razor blades into the dough that was sold to consumers at a Saco supermarket,” the new plea agreement reportedly states.
Hannaford customers found razor blades in the Portland Pie dough as far back as August 2020 but the store did not disclose that information to the police or the public. They blamed technology for their failure to report the crimes. The state was investigating that delay last year as a violation of the section of the Maine Food Code that requires licensed grocers to report imminent health hazards.
Pizza dough was also found containing screws in other Hannaford stores in September 2020. Hannaford did not report those incidents until after Saco police shared public information that razor blades had been found in “It’ll Be Pizza” dough at Hannaford stores in Saco and Sanford. Hannaford recalled pizza dough products from all of their 184 grocery stores.
A federal grand jury indicted Mitchell in March on two counts of tampering with a consumer product. Court records show Mitchell has agreed to plead guilty to one of those counts and accept a sentence of up to four years and nine months in prison. Mitchell has the right to appeal if the judge imposes a longer sentence. The penalty for the food tampering charge could be up to 10 years. A plea hearing will be held on June 24. The sentencing hearing has not yet been scheduled.
Mitchell had been recently fired from his job as a forklift operator for “It’ll Be Pizza,” the Scarborough, Maine, company that makes pizza dough sold in Hannaford and other grocery stores, according to the local news outlet.