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Posted August 30, 2012 | comments 14 Comments

Store owner: No Dumpster meat

Defendant says government has him all wrong

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Rodney L. Cole Sparks is still selling cuts of meat, and insists it's always been wholesome and healthful, none of it taken from a Dumpster, no matter what state food inspectors and the Commonwealth's Attorney in Warren County are saying about him.

Sparks freely admits he has snagged some packages of meat from supermarket Dumpsters, but claims those were for the 50 to 75 cats he keeps around his home in Monrovia, Md. He denies the meat he sells has ever been "putrid," one of several scathing words used to describe it in a criminal complaint filed in Warren County Circuit Court.

Sparks spoke freely Thursday from Rodney's Discount Foods in Front Royal, a businessman eager to tell his side of a story in which he casts himself as a modern day David facing down government food inspectors and prosecutors in the role of Goliath.

"I never denied that I Dumpster-dived for my cats," Sparks said.

The meat he sells is another matter. It was given or sold to him at a steep discount by friendly employees and managers at supermarkets and other retail outlets when they decided it was time to clear it from their meat sections, Sparks said.

"There's never been anybody around here that's gotten sick, at least not that I know of," Sparks said.

He denies all the accusations hurled at him in the 10-count criminal complaint signed by F.C. Lamneck, an enforcement officer with the state's Office of Meat and Poultry Services in Harrisonburg.

The complaint charges Sparks with offering adulterated and misbranded meat for sale over a span from Aug. 19, 2011 to Jan. 29.

Lamneck used labels found on some of the meat packages to trace their origins back to a Food Lion supermarket in Berryville, according to the complaint. The complaint also states that the Food Lion store manager confirmed that the meat came from his store.

Store employees recognized Sparks and his vehicle "on numerous dates and noticed him removing discarded food from the Dumpster, according to the complaint.

The complaint also lists meat packages with labels from retailers Weis, Bottom Dollar, Blooms and Safeway as appearing in Sparks' store inventory.

Sparks, 55, said he opened his store at 654 W. 11th St. in December 2010 after bad economic luck ended a career in the construction business in which he had worked since he was 14.

He said he made his way from Maryland to Front Royal through contacts at flea markets and with other retailers in the area who would offer overstocked and unwanted merchandise to him for sale in his store.

The sign outside his business advertises "clearance, scratch and dent" items for sale.

Sparks portrays himself as struggling businessman who moved into what he described as a poor neighborhood. All he wanted to do was serve the community with low-cost merchandise, but now the government is trying to force him out of business with a campaign of harassment, he said.

The shelves in the cluttered store are stacked full of a variety of items, including non-perishable food, CDs and household wares.

"It's a poor neighborhood. They needed help," Sparks said in explaining his decision to open the store.

But the charges he is facing are taking a toll on the business, he added.

"I'd say it has cut it at least in half since they started it," Sparks said of the state's case against him. "That's what they want. That's why they're dragging it out."

14 Comments | Leave a comment

    Ahh yes there is the picture of the store. It used to be a bit of a honky tonk bar at one time. The pitchers were good priced, and a good game of pool had.

    I'f the store is still open, I'd still stop in and pick me ups some good ole "cape cod" potatoe chips, can't beat the price.

    Anybody to has 50 to 75 cats isn't someone I would want living nearby. I'm sure none are spayed or neutered either!
    And you DON'T feed meat from a dumpster to anyone or anything!

    Where there's smoke, there's fire and I do not believe this owner's story. I wouldn't buy a pack of gum from this place.

    This guy keeps saying he has 50 to 75 cats, (I believe he has well over 100 ) you are only allow to have 9 by Md. state law and they suppose to have shots, I live near this guy in Monrovia and we find sick and dead cats all the time in our yard, Neighbors tell me the same, so let me ask some questions, if this is whats happening to cats, how many people has he done the same to? Why is Va. not closing this guy down? What else is he doing that Va would know with an investigation? Protect those poor people from this monster!

      That's very important information. He's allowing these poor cats to reproduce and that is a disaster right there! This whole idea of getting anything out of a dumpster is sickening and there are NO EXCUSES!

      What's he having a special on this week, MAGGOTS? Ugh! He should not be in business at this time! Bacteria affects people and animals,but he's counting on ignorance to pull this off.

      We all need to check expiration dates even in the regular stores. I've found outdated stuff and I always bring it to the attention of management. Once something is below 40 degrees, it usually has a two hour limit (we are warned about picnics etc.) and even less for meat.

    I hope he sells tissues in his store, because the way he is feeling sorry for himself he can wipe his own nose. Too bad the people shopping in his store can't see what he owns here in Maryland. Not bad for a "struggling businessman". Is that Science Diet Pet Food bag in front of his store? Go price that at a pet store. How much is he selling that for at his store? He claims this is a "poor neighborhood" and they can afford Science Diet Pet Food? Something is wrong with this picture. Would love to see receipt where he bought this pet food from so I can go get some for my pets. Oh, thats right, the stores just give it to him for the poor. So they could go to these stores and get it free and they would not have to shop at Rodney's. Sounds good to me.

    Mr. Spark claims no one has been sicken by the meat he`s selling that he knows about, are you kidding me, is he justifying his actions? If you are reading this Rot-ney maybe they died before anyone knew it was from the bad meat you sold them.

    PLEASE PRINT HIS PICTURE

    Yes, lets see a picture of this guy,I believe we will learn so much more about him when people recognize his face...

    Mr. Sparks speaks of his former construction business. Is this "Sparks Specialty" listed as 3990 Daisy Court, Monrovia, MD on the internet? Looks like a large business still being advertised. Anyone know anything about this business of Rodney's? Because when I google maps for this location it does look like a very large construction business. Lots of construction material.

    on one of my dumpster diving expeditions, i briefly ran into him. we both chatted about maybe doing a reality tv show on the subject....ha.ha.

    ...but seriously. I knew a guy back in the early 90's, when the ecomony was incredible, he would dumpster dive around JMU, Va tech, and other university at the end of classes (end of year). Most of the stuff he didnt even have to dive for. Computers, stereo's, etc. I'm sure the parents of these students have gotten more frugul.

      I don't have a problem with dumpster diving as long as anything from a dumpster is sold as being from a dumpster. I am also still confused about store employees giving him food to sell in his store when they could easily give it directly to these "poor" people. I would like to see in print the names of these store employees and the names of these stores so other people can take advantage of this free food. I am willing to help these poor people by telling them which stores to get this free food from. Because unless Sparks is giving away this same food as free in his store, it would appear that he is making a profit, by my way of thinking, just my personal thought.

    Sassy, Like I said this is going to be on reality TV someday. It is going to propell the guy higher then the Oasis Winery Guy near Rappahanock county. When I passed the guy in the dumpster this Lindsay Lohan chick was close behind.

    When I got back to my dumpster diving predessors, and Asked them Why I didn't get a side kick like Ms. Lohan. They had no answer for me. Believe me I was very mad because I have been beaten out on the Hollywood Scene.


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