The man police believe inserted razor blades into pizza dough balls at the Hannaford supermarket in Saco has been returned to Maine and is expected to make his first appearance in court Friday in Biddeford.

Carrier

Nicholas Mitchell of Dover, N.H., accused of putting razor blades in pizza dough at the Hannaford supermarket in Saco, is due in court Friday in Biddeford. Dover, N.H., Police Department via AP

Nicholas R. Mitchell, 38, was being held at the York County Jail on Thursday. He was arrested Saturday in Dover, New Hampshire, on a fugitive from justice warrant and did not fight extradition to Maine.

Mitchell is charged with two felonies, aggravated reckless conduct and violating the conditions of his release, which prohibited him from engaging in new criminal conduct or possessing dangerous weapons, including razor blades, according to a police affidavit filed in York Superior Court this week.

He is not expected to enter a plea Friday but his attorney is expected to discuss bail conditions.

Saco police began investigating Oct. 5 after two Hannaford customers returned bags of fresh Portland Pie Co. dough containing the razor blades and sharp metal fragments.

Hannaford contacted Saco police and the department immediately began a criminal investigation. Hannaford also issued a formal recall of pizza dough sold at the Saco store around the time the tampering was believed to have occurred.

But it was not the first report of a Hannaford customer finding razor blades or razor fragments in pizza dough.

Two customers of the Sanford Hannaford reported finding razor blades or pieces of blades in their dough in August and told store employees about it. But the issue was never brought to the attention of higher-up company officials, and neither customers nor the police were notified at the time.

The August incidents in Sanford only came to light after the Saco reports, and led to a separate police investigation and a broader recall of Portland Pie Pizza doughs from all Hannaford stores in the Northeast.

Hannaford provided a statement attributing the failure to take action in August to a technology fault in their internal reporting system. Hannaford has promised to add more safeguards to the internal system, and apologized to consumers for the error.

But the company has so far refused to provide more details about what exactly went wrong with the system and how they are fixing it.

Hannaford has not responded to requests to interview a company official about the reporting failure and the recalls. The company has refused to answer questions about how much product was sold and recalled and whether other tampering has been uncovered since then. A spokeswoman has said the company is leaving it to police to decide what information should be released.

There have been no reports of people being injured from the alleged tampering.

A Sanford customer said she saw a piece of a razor blade sticking out of the dough she purchased in August and safely removed it before throwing away the dough and returning the metal piece to the store. She assumed at the time it was an isolated accident in production and only learned last week that someone had intentionally tampered with pizza dough in the supermarket.

In addition to investigations in Saco and Sanford, police in Dover, New Hampshire, are also investigating a report of food product tampering at one of two Hannaford locations there. A Dover police lieutenant declined to confirm that it involved fresh pizza dough, citing local rules prohibiting the release of investigative information, although Saco police have cited similar incidents in Dover.

No charged have been filed related to incidents in Sanford and Dover.

Officially, police have not said they know for sure what Mitchell’s motive may be. It’s unclear if he has been interviewed by detectives yet, or if he has declined to speak to police.

But Mitchell was fired in June from the Scarborough-based company It’ll Be Pizza after 15 months of employment because he failed to show up to work too many times, according to the police affidavit. It’ll Be Pizza makes the dough and pizza cheese sold under the Portland Pie Co. name brand and other labels.

“Ultimately, he knows why he did it in his mind,” said Saco deputy chief Corey Huntress said Wednesday.

Federal authorities are also looking into the case, and Saco police say they are sharing information about their investigation.

It is a federal crime to tamper with food products in a way that affects interstate commerce, even if no one is sickened or harmed. If he is prosecuted federally, Mitchell could face 10 years in federal prison – the same maximum term for the more serious of his two state felony charges.

Related Headlines

Comments are not available on this story.