A man who pleaded guilty to putting razor blades in supermarket pizza dough was sentenced to more than four years in prison.
Nicholas Mitchell, 39, must also pay Hannaford Supermarket in Maine nearly $230,000 in restitution as part of his sentencing on Dec. 2 at a U.S. District Court in Portland, Maine, The Portland Press Herald reported.
"I think it's very important to clarify here that my intentions were never to harm anybody, only to disrupt my former employer's bottom line," Mitchell said as he became emotional during the hearing.
He was formerly employed by It'll Be Pizza, in Scarborough, Maine, a company that fired him on June 18, 2020, "for tardiness" after several warnings, according to court documents obtained by McClatchy News.
It'll Be Pizza provides pizza dough to Hannaford supermarkets to sell, WMTW reported.
Mitchell was arrested in October 2020 after pizza dough containing razor blades was found in Hannaford supermarkets in Maine as well as in New Hampshire, according to the outlet, and entered a guilty plea to a single count of tampering with the dough in June 2021.
A surveillance camera captured him handling the dough after metal was found in the product at the Hannaford supermarket in Saco, Maine, court documents say.
Mitchell's attorney declined a request for comment from McClatchy News.
After Mitchell's arrest, he apologized to the public, the supermarket chain and It'll Be Pizza and said, "I am very remorseful. I am mortified," according to his sentencing memorandum.
"Fortunately, nobody was injured as a result of this careless and reckless act, but obviously the risk to the public of what he did was incredible," said federal prosecutor Dan Perry, News Center Maine reported.
Before his firing from It'll Be Pizza, Mitchell was "doing well" before the pandemic until his "downward spiral" occurred in April 2020, court documents state.
In 2019, Mitchell "was sober and had custody of his son" while employed and living with his girlfriend of four years, a defense sentencing memorandum detailed.
He was on probation, for a reason not specified in the documents obtained, and told his counselor: "Everything's great. I'm living the American Dream. I am blessed with my girlfriend and son."
On April 14, 2020, he got into a verbal dispute with his girlfriend, whose son called the police, and Mitchell was arrested on charges of domestic violence and violating probation, according to court documents.
Since his bail conditions prevented contact with his girlfriend, Mitchell was essentially homeless and living out of his car before losing his job, the court documents say.
"Nick had worked his way up from his starting wage of $12.50 to making $16 an hour at the time he was fired," the court documents state. "This was the best hourly wage he had ever earned."
His mental health reportedly deteriorated after a long history of struggles, the documents say.
After his sentencing, the supermarket chain put out a statement, according to News Center Maine, saying:
"We appreciate the professionalism of law enforcement and civil authorities in bringing to justice an individual who intentionally tampered with food in stores.
"While we are thankful that no injuries occurred because of Mr. Mitchell's actions, the sentence appropriately reflects the severity of the crime of introducing a hazard into food. This judgment should serve as a deterrent to any individual from putting public safety at risk," the statement added, according to the outlet.
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