Federal investigators are reviewing the case against a man accused of inserting razor blades into pizza dough at a Saco supermarket.

Nicholas R. Mitchell, 38, allegedly inserted razor blades or fragments of razor blades into two balls of pizza dough at the Saco Hannaford on Oct. 5. Police used supermarket security footage to identify Mitchell and link him to the crime, according to an affidavit filed in York County Superior Court.

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Nicholas R. Mitchell. Dover, N.H., Police Department via Associated Press

Mitchell, who was fired in June from his job driving a forklift for the company that made the pizza dough, could be returned from a New Hampshire jail to Maine for his first court appearance as soon as Friday, Saco Police Deputy Chief Corey Huntress said.

Meanwhile, police in Sanford and Dover, New Hampshire, continue to investigate incidents of tampering with pizza dough in local Hannaford supermarkets.

An incident in Dover was reported to the store last week, although neither Hannaford nor the police have revealed any details. The Sanford case was first reported to Hannaford in August by two customers who said they found razor blades or pieces of blades in their dough.

Hannaford, however, did not report the August incidents to police or customers until this week. A Hannaford spokeswoman said Wednesday that an internal system used to flag product concerns to company executives failed to work properly, and the company apologized to consumers and promised to improve its internal systems.

Hannaford would not fully explain what went wrong with its internal system for tracking and acting on consumer product safety problems or respond to requests for more information. The supermarket chain also has refused to provide details about how many products were affected and how many were sold during the period subject to recall. The company has said it is deferring to police to decide what information should be shared.

Hannaford’s delay in reporting the tampering may put Sanford police at a disadvantage. Sanford Police Chief Thomas Connolly said it is unlikely that Hannaford has kept security footage from two months ago, and it’s unknown if forensic scientists can extract anything useful from the returned dough and razor blades that have been turned over to police.

By contrast, police in Saco identified and located Mitchell in about five days, in part by using surveillance footage from inside the store. Footage from a police station where Mitchell met with a probation officer earlier in the day linked him to images of the similarly dressed person tampering with the dough, in addition to other evidence, police said.

Huntress said Wednesday that the Saco department is sharing details of the investigation with federal authorities. That is likely because the ongoing investigations span two states and involve a product that is shipped from Maine to New Hampshire and other states.

Tampering with food in a way that interferes with interstate commerce is a federal crime and a conviction could incur a maximum of 10 years in prison, the same maximum sentence Mitchell faces in state court for aggravated reckless conduct, the more serious of the two state felony charges he will face.

Huntress said Saco detectives are working out the logistics of returning Mitchell to Maine while also chasing leads to nail down Mitchell’s motive. Huntress declined to say whether investigators had interviewed Mitchell yet.

It’s also unknown whether he has retained an attorney. Mitchell has denied a request to be interviewed by the Press Herald.

“Ultimately, he knows why he did it in his mind,” Huntress said. “It’s just a matter of how we don’t have that information available right now.”

Between March 2019 and June this year, Mitchell worked as a forklift driver at the Scarborough warehouse of It’ll Be Pizza, which makes fresh pizza dough and cheese under the Portland Pie Co. brand, among other labels. The company ships about 500,000 cases of its product to stores annually.

It’ll Be Pizza’s CEO told police that the company fired Mitchell because he repeatedly failed to show up for work without calling. Although the company was aware of personal problems in Mitchell’s life and tried to give him chances to correct his standing, he failed to do so and his employment was terminated, the CEO told police.

The company has refused to provide more details about those personal problems or Mitchell’s performance, citing employee confidentiality. But, “there were ample, logical and very compelling reasons why Mr. Mitchell’s employment did not last more than 15 months,” company spokesman Mark Robinson said.

After Mitchell was let go, It’ll Be Pizza received more than 100 harassing phone calls, in which the caller would hold open the line and not say anything when a company employee picked up, according to a police affidavit filed in court. The company’s information technology department determined the phone used to make the calls belonged to Mitchell, and matched the number that Mitchell had given his probation officers.

Mitchell is on probation from a 2018 case in which he pleaded guilty to felony criminal threatening with a dangerous weapon and served seven days in jail. As part of his probation conditions, Mitchell was ordered to undergo anger management counseling and an evaluation for substance use and attend substance use counseling.

He is alleged to have violated that probation in May, when he was arrested on a charge of domestic violence assault following an argument with a woman in Sanford in which her son told police that Mitchell punched her in the face.

Mitchell previously lived in Sanford, but told his probation officer during a meeting Oct. 5 that he was living out of his car. Saco police have since described him as homeless.

Dover Police Lt. Brant Dolleman said investigators there are still working on leads and chasing down information, and declined to characterize how close they may be to bringing charges. Dolleman said policy prohibited him from saying whether Mitchell had previous contacts with police there.

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