Crime & Courts

Shawnee man gets 10 years in salsa poisoning

KANSAS CITY, Kan. —A Shawnee man will serve 10 years in prison for scheming to poison salsa at a Mexican restaurant, a federal judge ordered Monday.

Arnoldo Bazan, 32, pleaded guilty previously to conspiracy to tamper with a consumer product related to the poisoning of more than 40 diners at a Mi Ranchito restaurant in Lenexa.

He was angry about losing his job at the Mi Ranchito restaurant in Olathe in June 2009, prosecutors said, and blamed the restaurant owner for that and the theft of his vehicle.

Bazan and his wife, Yini De La Torre, a waitress at the restaurant in Lenexa, schemed to get revenge by putting a powerful pesticide in the salsa.

On Aug. 7, 2009, a message went to the restaurant's website threatening harm unless Bazan's vehicle was returned.

Three days later, a dozen diners who ate the salsa during the lunch rush reported symptoms including nausea, stomach cramps, weakness and sweating.

On Aug. 28, Bazan sent the owner a message warning that "the worst is yet to come."

Two days later, three dozen diners ranging from young children to senior citizens reported severe poisoning symptoms.

Samples from diners' blood, urine and food showed the presence of methomyl, a pesticide used only by certified professionals.

While Lenexa police investigated, Bazan told his wife not to talk or she would be physically harmed.

De La Torre pleaded guilty to the same charge and was sentenced previously to more than seven years in prison.

As a result of the poisonings, prosecutors said, all six Mi Ranchito restaurants lost income. Sales in the Lenexa location declined by about $250,000 over that September and October, officials said.