The Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested a Honesdale, Pa., man yesterday on charges that he telephoned a local Acme food store Friday and Saturday, claiming that Jell-O products had been contaminated with cyanide.
FBI agent Marty Mulholland said investigators had traced the two telephone calls to Norman Mark Allen, 21, but had not yet discovered a motive in the case. The FBI said there was no evidence that Allen actually placed cyanide in any Jell-O.
Friday, Jell-O products were removed from grocery shelves in seven states, including stores in Detroit, Chicago and Atlanta, after a series of telephoned threats of tampering. The first threat was received on Thursday by a consumer hotline at General Foods, the Jell-O manufacturer. The caller claimed that cyanide was put into two boxes of sugarfree Jell-O gelatin in Jewel Food Stores in the Chicago area and in one box in a Kroger store in the Detroit area.
An FBI official said that agents have no evidence linking Allen to threats in states outside Pennsylvania, and that agents think that they are dealing with a series of "copycat" callers. Wayne G. Davis, head of the FBI's Philadelphia office, said that Allen will be charged with "knowingly communicating false information that a consumer product had been tainted." If convicted, faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.