Man arrested in video baby threat scam

July 31, 2008 6:46:12 PM PDT
A man was arrested Thursday after he claimed in an apparent Internet video hoax that he had poisoned millions of bottles of baby food, some with cyanide or rat poison, because he wanted to kill black and Hispanic children, prosecutors said. Gerber Products Co. received numerous consumer complaints expressing concern about the safety of its products after people saw the videos, but the 80-year-old company and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have found no evidence of tampering with the products.

Anton Dunn caused to be posted on the Internet three videos of himself in which he boasted that he had poisoned bottles of Gerber baby food and could not be caught, authorities said.

Dunn, 42, was charged with sending threats in interstate commerce and falsely claiming to have tampered with a consumer product, crimes that carry a potential penalty of 10 years in prison upon conviction.

A U.S. District Court judge ordered Dunn held until a bail hearing on Tuesday. His lawyer, Sarah Baumgartel, had no comment outside court.

In a statement, Gerber's parent company, Nestle Nutrition, said it believed the Internet postings were a "malicious hoax."

"The safety of Gerber and Nestle Nutrition products is our top priority," it said. "We are taking this issue seriously and are cooperating fully with federal authorities."

It said parents with questions or concerns should contact the Gerber Parent Resource Center at 800-4-GERBER.

In court papers, FDA agent Michael Felezzola wrote that a Gerber representative had contacted the FDA's Detroit office on April 20 to report that a threatening video entitled "gerbersbabyfoodalert" was posted on YouTube, a video sharing site.

He said a man identified as Trashman appeared in the 10-minute video, which apparently was recorded in a shower stall. He said the man said Gerber employees acting at his direction had poisoned millions of bottles of baby food with the intent to kill babies.

On July 24, Dunn, of Manhattan, caused another video of himself to be posted on two Web sites, though that video also eventually was posted on YouTube, authorities said. Dunn stated that he had directed others to taint 5,000 bottles of Gerber baby food with cyanide and rat poison, they said.

He also claimed he poisoned the bottles with the intent to kill black and Hispanic babies, though white babies also were likely to die, they said.

"Our main reason for doing this is we're trying to cut down on the black population," the video says.

In the video, which remained on YouTube on Thursday afternoon, a man in a black mask seemed to be taunting viewers by saying: "I can't be caught. That's one thing, I cannot be caught. ... I'm too advanced and too smart."

In a third video posted on YouTube on July 27, Dunn, who is black, said that his "plan is in motion" and that four babies had died as a result of the poisoning, Felezzola said.

In the videos, Dunn appears with a black or white mask covering most of his face but leaves his eyes, nose and mouth partially exposed, and he calls himself Trashman, authorities said.

Felezzola said Gerber reported since July 24 it has been flooded with consumer concerns about the safety of its baby food.

He said the Gerber representative said the company found no evidence that its baby food has been tampered with. He added the FDA has received no reports of death or injury resulting from the consumption of Gerber baby food as described in the videos.

Felezzola said Dunn had been arrested at least three other times in the last year, though the charges appeared to be unrelated to those brought Thursday.

Prosecutors said Dunn had caused to be posted on YouTube dozens of videos in which he calls himself Trashman and wears a disguise. In a video posted April 15, he claims to have killed one person with a tire iron and stabbed another to death, prosecutors said.

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