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Man Indicted in Ralphs Extortion Plot

LOS ANGELES - A man has been indicted on charges that he attempted to extort money from the Ralphs supermarket chain by threatening to place contaminated baby food products on store shelves, authorities announced yesterday, according to AP.

Authorities said that a federal grand jury issued the indictment on Tuesday against David Ian Dickinson, charging him with one count of extortion and one count of tampering with consumer products.

Dickinson, a native of Middlesbrough, England, lived with his family in the Venice section of Los Angeles on an expired visa. He allegedly sent to a Ralphs corporate office in Compton a package containing four food products, among them baby food and formula, as well as a letter referred to as a "blackmail demand" by U.S. Attorney Debra W. Yang. Another letter, sent a few days later, said that if $180,000 were not handed over, a large variety of tainted food products would be put in stores.

Tests on the foods received by Ralphs showed that the contents of a Gerber orange juice container consisted of more than 50 percent hydraulic fluid. A jar of horseradish and a container of Similac infant formula were found to contain boric acid, and glass shards were discovered in a jar of Gerber carrots.

Authorities emphasized that no such foods actually ended up in supermarkets. "We have no evidence, no knowledge, and no belief that there are tainted foods on the shelf at any Ralphs," Yang said. An arraignment of the suspect is due to take place May 24.
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