Woman sentenced for poisoning salsa at Lenexa restaurant

KANSAS CITY, Kan. —A restaurant employee was sentenced to 87 months in prison for putting poison in salsa served to patrons at a Mexican restaurant in Lenexa, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said today.

Yini De La Torre, 20, of Shawnee, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to tamper with a consumer product. In her plea, she admitted that while working as a waitress at the Mi Ranchito restaurant in Lenexa she twice added pesticide to salsa she prepared.

On Aug. 11, 2009, 12 diners at Mi Ranchito suffered nausea, abdominal cramps, weakness, sweating and chest discomfort after eating salsa. On Aug. 30, approximately 36 patrons suffered similar symptoms after eating salsa. Some of the customers were transported to the hospital.

In her plea, De La Torre said her husband and co-defendant, Arnoldo Bazan, worked for a Mi Ranchito restaurant in Olathe. Bazan thought the owner of the restaurant chain was responsible for Bazan being suspended from work and the theft of Bazan's vehicle.

She said Bazan plotted with De La Torre to get even by poisoning patrons of the restaurant. Bazan is set for jury trial April 4.

The Johnson County Health Department collected samples of food from the restaurant as well as blood and urine samples from the patrons who became ill. A federal lab found pesticide in the salsa.

As a result of the poisoning incidents, all six Mi Ranchito restaurants suffered reduced income. The Mi Ranchito in Lenexa saw sales for September and October 2009 decline by approximately $250,000.