SACO, Maine — The man who allegedly inserted razor blades into bags of pizza dough, prompting a recall of food products in Maine and five other states, posed as a Hannaford customer and inserted them in dough in at least two stores in York County after being fired from the doughmaker’s facility earlier this summer, according to a warrant filed by the Saco Police Department.
Nicholas Mitchell, 38, was a forklift operator of It’ll Be Pizza, which produces fresh pizza dough balls for Portland Pie Co., but does not appear to have tampered with products while he worked at the facility, the warrant said.
Instead, he allegedly punctured the bags while posing as a customer at the Hannaford store in Saco, according to the warrant. The Bangor Daily News reported Tuesday that a family in Sanford found metal scraps in dough they purchased at a Hannaford there on Aug. 14. Police believe that that was the earliest case of contamination on record.
It’s unclear how many other stores may have been affected, but the information obtained from the warrant could reassure shoppers who purchased the dough at other supermarkets outside of Maine and feared the contamination was linked to the manufacturing facility.
Hannaford removed all Portland Pie Co. products across its locations on Oct. 11 and has issued a recall on all Portland Pie Co. products purchased since Aug. 1. Shaw’s and Star Markets stores also pulled the products from their stores throughout the region.
Saco police said Wednesday that the product’s manufacturing facility was a “totally clean” operation, and that all pizza dough manufactured there is inspected with metal detectors before hitting retail locations.
That’s why it was alarming when the Saco Hannaford customer returned a prepackaged bag of Portland Pie Co. dough to the store on Oct. 5 that contained a razor blade.
Hannaford staff reviewed store footage from earlier that day because the dough had been stocked that morning. They allegedly observed Mitchell removing several bags of dough from the shelves.
He examined the bags, bringing “the dough close to his abdomen to conceal his activities,” according to the warrant, before returning the bags to the shelf.
Video showed him leaving the store without purchasing anything and driving away in a car registered to him, according to the warrant.
Michael White, CEO of It’ll Be Pizza, told police that Mitchell had worked at the manufacturing company’s Scarborough facility from March 2019 until June 2020 when supervisors fired him.
He said Mitchell had been suffering some “personal issues” and failed to show up to work or notify the company, according to White.
After firing Mitchell, the company received more than 100 harassing phone calls from two private numbers, White told police.
White said the calls “were not threatening” — there was just silence on the other end. The company’s IT department worked with Verizon to trace the calls back to Mitchell’s phone number, according to the warrant.
Mitchell had been seen living in his car outside a Scarborough motel in the days before he was arrested in Dover, New Hampshire, on Tuesday for tampering with the dough, according to the warrant.
He is expected to return to York County Jail this week. His bail is set at $20,000.