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UPDATED: Man Accused in Tainted Yogurt Case Remains Jailed

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A New Mexico man indicted on charges that he handed out a semen-tainted yogurt sample at a grocery store will remain behind bars pending his trial after a federal judge in Albuquerque ruled Friday that he was a danger to the community.

Anthony Garcia, 32, was indicted this week on charges of adulterating food and making false statements to federal investigators. Police say he was linked to the yogurt through DNA samples.

The judge sided with prosecutors during Garcia’s detention hearing, ruling that he should remain in custody without bail. Garcia has not yet entered a plea. John Van Butcher, his public defender, said he was disappointed with the judge’s decision, but he said he couldn’t comment further on the case.

Garcia is accused of handing out the yogurt sample at a Sunflower Market in Albuquerque in January.

Officers responded to the store after a woman said she believed the yogurt she was given was actually a bodily fluid. The woman told police that after tasting the sample, she spit on the floor several times and wiped her mouth on the garment she was wearing to get the taste out of her mouth, according to court documents.

Investigators collected samples of the woman’s spit from the floor and took the garment she was wearing as evidence. They later served a search warrant and collected blood and DNA samples from Garcia.

Police said they linked sperm cells found in both the victim’s saliva and on the garment to Garcia using DNA.

According to the indictment, investigators with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Garcia falsely claimed not to know that the spoon he handed the customer contained semen.

Garcia was arrested Wednesday by Albuquerque police and FDA officials.

In court documents, federal prosecutors described the allegations as “sickening and appalling.”

“To target and lure an unsuspecting individual for such an assault upon her person falls far outside the bounds of normal societal behavior,” the prosecutors said in a motion seeking Garcia’s detention.

Prosecutors also included in the motion police reports of previous incidents involving Garcia. They pointed to a 2001 report in which Garcia was reported to have been seen masturbating in an Albuquerque neighborhood. The officer noted in the report that he had answered another call about a month earlier involving a similar claim outside a middle school.

In 2004, Garcia received a citation for indecent exposure at a Wal-Mart. The police report states Garcia apologized for “pulling out his private parts and touching himself as he walked around the store.”

A September 2010 police report involving indecent exposure along a popular jogging path in Albuquerque also mentioned Garcia.

Court documents also say that on the day of the incident at Sunflower Market, police arrested Garcia on an unrelated outstanding felony warrant for criminal sexual contact with a minor. Prosecutors said those charges are still pending in state district court.

Prosecutors did note that none of Garcia’s prior conduct has resulted in any felony convictions on his record.

“Based on the pending charges in both state and federal court, it appears that, over time, the defendant’s behavior has instead become increasingly dangerous and threatening,” prosecutors said in the motion.

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July 15, 2011 4:50 p.m.

A New Mexico man indicted on charges that he handed out a semen-tainted yogurt sample at a grocery store will remain behind bars pending his trial after a federal judge ruled Friday that he was a danger to the community.

Anthony Garcia, 32, was indicted this week on charges of adulterating food and making false statements to federal investigators. Police say he was linked to the yogurt through DNA samples.

The judge sided with prosecutors during Garcia’s detention hearing, ruling that he should remain in custody without bail. Garcia has not yet entered a plea. John Van Butcher, his public defender, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Garcia is accused of handing out the yogurt sample at a Sunflower Market in Albuquerque in January.

Officers responded to the store after a woman said she believed the yogurt she was given was actually a bodily fluid. The woman told police that after tasting the sample, she spit on the floor several times and wiped her mouth on the garment she was wearing to get the taste out of her mouth, according to court documents.

Investigators collected samples of the woman’s spit from the floor and took the garment she was wearing as evidence. They later served a search warrant and collected blood and DNA samples from Garcia.

Police said they linked sperm cells found in both the victim’s saliva and on the garment to Garcia using DNA.

According to the indictment, investigators with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Garcia falsely claimed not to know that the spoon he handed the customer contained semen.

Garcia was arrested Wednesday by Albuquerque police and FDA officials.

In court documents, federal prosecutors described the allegations as “sickening and appalling.”

“To target and lure an unsuspecting individual for such an assault upon her person falls far outside the bounds of normal societal behavior,” the prosecutors said in a motion seeking Garcia’s detention.

Prosecutors also included in the motion police reports of previous incidents involving Garcia. They pointed to a 2001 report in which Garcia was reported to have been seen masturbating in an Albuquerque neighborhood. The officer noted in the report that he had answered another call about a month earlier involving a similar claim outside a middle school.

In 2004, Garcia received a citation for indecent exposure at a Wal-Mart. The police report states Garcia apologized for “pulling out his private parts and touching himself as he walked around the store.”

A September 2010 police report involving indecent exposure along a popular jogging path in Albuquerque also mentioned Garcia.

Court documents also say that on the day of the incident at Sunflower Market, police arrested Garcia on an unrelated outstanding felony warrant for criminal sexual contact with a minor. Prosecutors said those charges are still pending in state district court.

Prosecutors did note that none of Garcia’s prior conduct has resulted in any felony convictions on his record.

“Based on the pending charges in both state and federal court, it appears that, over time, the defendant’s behavior has instead become increasingly dangerous and threatening,” prosecutors said in the motion.

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July 15, 2011 2:20 p.m.

A New Mexico man indicted on charges that he handed out a semen-tainted yogurt sample at a grocery store will remain behind bars pending his trial.

Police say 32-year-old Anthony Garcia was linked to the yogurt through DNA samples.

A federal judge ruled Friday in Albuquerque that Garcia is a danger to the community and should remain in custody without bail.

Garcia was indicted on charges of adulterating food and making false statements to federal investigators.

Garcia has not yet entered a plea. John Van Butcher, his public defender, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Garcia is accused of handing out the yogurt sample at a Sunflower Market in Albuquerque in January.

Officers responded after a woman said she believed the yogurt she was given was actually a bodily fluid.

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July 14, 2011 5:55 p.m. — Ex-Grocery Worker Facing Federal Charges Over Tainted Yogurt

A New Mexico man was indicted after police said he was linked through DNA samples to semen-tainted yogurt samples handed out at a grocery store.

Anthony Garcia, 32, appeared in court Thursday in Albuquerque after being indicted the day before on charges of adulterating food and making false statements to federal investigators.

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales described the conduct alleged in the indictment as outrageous.

“No one should have to endure this type of experience simply because she or he accepts a food sample while shopping for groceries,” Gonzales said.

Garcia, in shackles, did not enter a plea to the two counts. His public defender, John Van Butcher, was not available for comment after business hours Thursday.

The judge ordered Garcia to remain in custody pending a detention hearing Friday.

Garcia is accused in the three-page indictment of handing out tainted yogurt samples at a Sunflower Market in Albuquerque in January.

Officers responded to the store after a woman called to report an employee had given her what she was told was a yogurt sample. The woman told police she believed it was actually a bodily fluid.

Gonzales said his office will vigorously pursue anyone who deliberately taints food for the purpose of harming innocent customers, for malicious pranks or for deviant sexual gratification.

FDA investigators interviewed Garcia in March. The indictment said he falsely claimed not to know that the spoon he handed the customer contained semen.

Police said they tested the yogurt and found semen, then linked it to Garcia using DNA.

Garcia was arrested Wednesday by Albuquerque police and officials with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Chris Sherrell, Sunflower Farmers Markets president and chief executive, said in a statement the company “abhors the act that Garcia is alleged to have committed” and welcomed the federal indictment.

The company said it has cooperated fully with the FDA as well as state and local authorities since the incident was first reported in January. Garcia was fired by the company on Jan. 25.

Sunflower said it has no reason to believe the FDA or federal prosecutors intend to pursue any action against the company with regard to the yogurt incident. Spokesman Lew Phelps said the company “views this as a rogue employee who acted alone.”

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July 14, 2011 12:35 p.m.

A New Mexico man indicted on charges that he handed out yogurt samples tainted with semen at a grocery store has made his initial appearance in federal court in Albuquerque.

Anthony Garcia was indicted Wednesday by a federal grand jury on charges of adulterating food and making false statements to federal investigators. He made his first court appearance Thursday.

The 32-year-old Garcia remains in custody pending a detention hearing Friday. He has not yet entered a plea, and it wasn’t immediately clear who his appointed attorney would be.

Garcia is accused of handing out tainted yogurt samples at a Sunflower Market in Albuquerque in January.

Officers responded after a woman called to report an employee had given her what she was told was a yogurt sample. The woman told police she believed it was actually a bodily fluid.

Police say they tested the yogurt and found semen. They say they linked it to Garcia using DNA.

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July 14, 2011 8:20 a.m.

Former West Side grocery worker Anthony Garcia, 32, is in federal court this morning to answer to new federal charges brought in connection with his alleged tricking a woman into eating semen-tainted yogurt last January.

In an indictment unsealed late Wednesday, Garcia has been charged with adulteration of food with semen and with making false statements during the course of a federal investigation, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Garcia, an Albuquerque resident, was indicted by a federal grand jury on July 13, according to the release.

Count 1 of the indictment alleges that on Jan. 25, 2011, Garcia caused yogurt that was being held for sale to be adulterated — that is, under the Federal Drug and Cosmetic Act, “filthy, putrid or decomposed … or if it (is) otherwise unfit” for human consumption — by tainting it with semen, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Count 2 alleges that on March 8, 2011, Garcia falsely stated to Food and Drug Administration investigators that he didn’t know what the spoon he gave a customer to taste contained when in fact he knew the spoon contained semen, the release said.

“The conduct alleged in this indictment is outrageous,” U.S. Attorney Kenneth Gonzales said in the release. “No one should have to endure this type of experience simply because she or he accepts a food sample while shopping for groceries. The indictment sends a clear message that my Office will work with its law enforcement partners to vigorously pursue those who deliberately adulterate foods for the purpose of causing harm to innocent customers, or as malicious pranks, or for deviant sexual gratification.”

Garcia faces up to three years in prison, a $250,000 fine and a year of supervised release if convicted of the adulteration count, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Conviction on making false statements to the FDA could bring up to five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.

Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Holland of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations in Kansas City said the indictment demonstrates his agency’s commitment to protecting American consumers from adulterated food.

“American consumers must have the confidence that their food is safe and fit for consumption, and those who cause food to be adulterated must understand that the FDA will ensure that they are prosecuted and punished to the full extent of the law,” Holland said in the news release.

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2:15pm 2/8/11 — Semen-Tainted Yogurt Case Makes National Headlines: Drudge Report on Monday links to The Smoking Gun’s coverage of ‘revolting’ New Mexico case.

It’s a revolting case, all right, and The Smoking Gun is all over the case of the alleged semen-tainted yogurt an Albuquerque grocery clerk is accused of giving to an unsuspecting female customer.

As usual with the website, you can link to documents in the case, including the search warrant affidavit seeking blood and DNA samples from Anthony Garcia, the 31-year-old suspect, the police report and the handwritten statement given by the 28-year-old woman, known only as TSG, who filed the original complaint.


7:45pm 2/5/11 — Police: New Evidence in Yogurt Case: Woman alleges grocery-store worker tricked her into eating a bodily fluid disguised as yogurt.

Police are investigating whether a grocery-store worker tricked a woman into eating a bodily fluid.

The victim alleges an employee at the Sunflower Farmers Market on Albuquerque’s West Side offered her a yogurt sample last month but that it tasted like a bodily fluid, police say.

Sgt. Trish Hoffman, a spokeswoman for the Albuquerque Police Department, said Saturday that tests have confirmed that the woman spit out a mixture of saliva and a certain other kind of bodily fluid.

Police last week also took a DNA sample from the accused grocery-store worker. Officers are still awaiting results on whether the worker’s DNA matches the bodily fluid.

He could face a battery charge, Hoffman said, but officers are still discussing how they would proceed with the case. It’s not clear whether the charge would be a felony or misdemeanor, she said.

Click here for Astrid Galvan’s earlier reporting on the case.

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