NVDAILY.COM | Local News
Posted August 30, 2012 | 14 Comments
Store owner: No Dumpster meat
Defendant says government has him all wrong
By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
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."