(CN) – An Albuquerque man has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for spiking grocery store yogurt samples with semen and lying to federal investigators about it, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Albuquerque said.
Anthony Garcia, 32, also was ordered to pay restitution. He pleaded guilty in October to adulterating food with semen and making false statements in a federal investigation.
Garcia admitted that while working in the dairy department of Sunflower Farmers Market, he approached a female customer and offered her a sample of the spiked yogurt. She tasted it, immediately spat it out, and asked to speak to the store’s manager.
Garcia admitted he threw the samples into the store’s trash compactor after the customer spoke with the manager, and that he lied later to a U.S. Food & Drug Administration agent about not knowing what the spoon contained. He admitted he also lied to a police detective.
“This conduct at issue in this case is not a joke, and it is not funny,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales said in the statement. “It is criminal, and the sentence imposed on Garcia today should serve as a warning to those who deliberately adulterate food for the purpose of causing harm to innocent consumers, or as malicious pranks, or for deviant sexual gratification.”
The victim sued Garcia and his employer in Federal Court in September 2011, claiming that Garcia had “a lengthy and disturbing history of sexually motivated offenses,” including public masturbation, indecent exposure, and that he “was charged with multiple counts of kidnapping and criminal sexual contact with a minor” in January 2009, before Sunflower hired him.
The woman’s complaint stated that Garcia “had already stalked and approached at least 3 other women that day and given them ‘yogurt’ samples without being stopped or questioned by any supervisors or manager,” though it was not “sample day” and it was not Garcia’s job to hand out samples.
She said she refused the sampe, but Garcia persisted, so she took the spoonful of stuff Garcia gave her and “was immediately repulsed by what she tasted, as it was evident the sample contained some sort of bodily fluid.”
She claimed Sunflower Market negligently fostered an environment of indifference toward food tampering and inappropriate sexual conduct. She said the market had no training programs or safety procedures to prevent food tampering and no corporate response plans for sexual battery claims.
Her complaint added that Garcia had a record of inappropriate sexual behavior, including being “seen masturbating in an Albuquerque neighborhood” in 2001; being “cited for indecent exposure after he was walking around an Albuquerque Wal-Mart store ‘with his penis hanging out of his pants'” in 2004; being charged with “multiple counts of kidnapping and criminal sexual contact with a minor” in January 2009; and that in 2010, “a female jogger called the police after Garcia ‘undid … his pants and exposed his genital area to her’ in the Bosque.” (Ellipsis in complaint.)
She claimed Sunflower “either did not conduct an adequate background check on defendant Garcia before or during his employment or ignored the results of the background check.”
She seeks damages for negligence, negligent retention, vicarious liability and unfair trade practices. She said the assault exposed her to risk of pathogens, including hepatitis, and that reporting on the incident hurt her reputation and mental well-being.