Two Virginia men were indicted by a federal grand jury here yesterday on charges of operating a chain of "bait-and-switch" meat markets in the Washington and Baltimore areas.
According to the indictment, the two men -- operating under such titles as Beefland, Dick's Butcher Shop and Shenandoah Valley Meat Co. -- would entice customers into their stores with advertisements promising low prices for sides of beef and other goods.
However, when the customers would come to the store the salesmen would instead steer them to other, better cuts of meat and sell that meat at abnormally high prices, the indictment asserted.
Charged in the scheme were Richard M. Cerv, of 9319 Craig Ave., Alexandria, and Gary A. Young, of 1023 Isabella Dr., stafford, Va. Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen R. Spivack of the fraud division said the two men are no longer operating stores under the names listed in the indictment.
The two men are charged with fraud, violating a previous order by the secretary of agriculture that they not operate such "bait-and-switch" establishments, and placing false advertisements in The Washington Post and The Washington Star.
The indictment charged that the men and salesmen working under their supervision, sometimes using fictitious names, would allow only one customer in the meat cooler at a time because they would sell the meat for different prices to different persons.
Often, to determine the amount of money they could get from a customer, they would check out the customer's credit rating in advance of making a final sale, the indictment continued.
Based on prices quoted in the ads and the weight of a side of beef, the normal successful sale to an individual customer would be more than $500.
The advertisements, often placed in comics and television sections of newspapers, would promise such items as sirloin steaks for 63 cents a pound, and easy credit plans for payment.
According to the charges and to investigators familiar with the bait-and-switch tactics of some meat dealers, a customer who came to the store would be shown an old, discolored piece of meat that even when fresh was not intended for retail sale.
If a customer commented on the condition of the meat, the salemen reportedly would agree and would tell them they had better meat at higher prices. The indictment charged that salesmen who actually would try to sell the "bait" meat would be reprimanded, but that salesmen who got the highest prices for the better meat would be given higher commissions as incentives.
The advertisements for the company that are charged as being false appeared in Washington newspapers from January through March of 1978. The Beefland store was at 513 Morse St. NE at the time of the alleged fraud; Dick's Butcher Shops were located in Ellicott City, Md., Baltimore, Annandale and Alexandria and the Shennandoah Valley store was in Elkton, Md.
The indictment names 22 customers as victims of the alleged fraud.