Courts & Crime

Couple accused of poisoning salsa at K.C. area restaurant

KANSAS CITY — When the pesticide methomyl is sprayed on crops, farm workers aren't supposed to step back into the fields for up to a week.

It's dangerous, potentially deadly stuff and, according to federal prosecutors, it is the poison a Shawnee couple chose to exact revenge against one of the owners of the Mi Ranchito restaurant in Lenexa.

On Thursday, federal prosecutors accused former restaurant employees Arnoldo Bazan and his wife, Yini De La Torre — niece of the restaurant co-founder — of mixing the pesticide into salsa Aug. 30 and sending at least a dozen people to the hospital.

Bazan, 30, and De La Torre, 19, each face one count of conspiring to recklessly endanger other people by conspiring to tamper with a consumer product. They also are charged with two counts of tampering with a consumer product.

Prosecutors allege the couple poisoned the salsa to make customers sick so the restaurant would be blamed and hurt financially.

Methomyl is a hard-to-get pesticide used for commercial fruit, vegetable and cotton crops. It can be purchased and used only by certified professionals

“It’s not like you, me or John Doe can go and get it,” said Tama Sawyer, director of the University of Kansas Hospital’s Poison Control Center.

Sawyer said 7.5 small drops of undiluted methomyl can be lethal. She said she had not seen a case of exposure to the pesticide in the 20 years she had worked at the center.

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