Americans arguably love fewer things more than gluttony, but what happens when our national penchant for gastronomic indulgences takes a sinister turn? With the holiday season in full swing, we've all got food on our minds — and that includes criminals, too.
A stolen lobster, fake fancy wine, and poisoned spaghetti — from fraud to theft to attempted murder, food and crime are an unexpectedly outrageous pairing. There are all sorts of ways to use food to accomplish some pretty bizarre crimes.
With that in mind, we've curated a veritable smorgasbord of nefarious food scandals in honor of the holidays. Check out our list of six of the most outrageous food-related crimes, below. And also, just as a tip, these culinary misdeeds show you might want to think twice about eating any dish prepared by a creepy relative. Bon appétit!
1. Stolen Rock Lobster
Motion in the ocean or just an intoxicated lady in a fish tank?
Kimberly Gabel of St. Petersburg, Florida was "blacked out drunk" on November 10, 2018 when she pilfered a clawed crustacean from Red Lobster, according to an arrest affidavit from the incident posted by the Smoking Gun. Gabel made her daring escape with the doomed ocean-dwelling creature after being asked to leave the facility for disturbing other customers, according to police.
The fate of the lobster remains unclear, as Gabel insisted she didn't know what happened to it and that she "did not care because she did not do anything wrong."
2. Sommeiller Scandal
Rudy Kurniawan was sentenced to 10 years in prison and ordered to forfeit more than $20 million after being charged with wine fraud for selling fake fancy vintages to California's elite, according to The Guardian, a UK-based news organization.
Kurniawan had become a notable figure in the Golden State's boozy social scene before it was discovered that he had been lying about the history of his bottles, swindling millions of dollars from collectors.
“He was insecure, very insecure,” said Kurniawan's lawyer. “He wanted to be them. He wanted to be part of it.”
3. Strange Fruit
Americans aren't the only ones involved with bizarre food crimes: Australia went on high alert earlier this year after sharp sewing needles were found inside strawberries across the nation. More than 100 cases of spiked strawberries were discovered before a culprit could be found. My Ut Trinh, a former supervisor at the Berrylicious and Berry Obsession farm, was ultimately charged with seven counts of contamination of goods and faces up to 10 years in jail if convicted, according to CNN. But no one's sure if Trinh is to blame for each incident, leading investigators to wonder if copycats have been active since before her arrest.
4. Deadly Spaghetti
Heather Mook of York, England was arrested and jailed in 2007 after she mixed rat poison into her husband's spaghetti bolognese, according to the BBC. The attempted murder was part of an elaborate ploy to keep her husband disoriented as she siphoned money from his mother's bank accounts into her own.
"Cases of poisoning can be difficult to detect, and it can be even more difficult to apprehend a perpetrator," noted Dr. Emily Glorney, a forensic psychologist and senior lecturer at the University of London, to Vice. "It is for this reason that poisoning might appeal to some people—particularly those motivated by a sense of excitement, possibly through evading detection and following the cases through media or personal experience."
5. The Cake Is A Lie
Viktoria Nasyrova, who the New York Daily News described as a "a Brooklyn femme fatale with a deadly past," was arrested in March 2018 after allegedly poisoning Olga Tsvyk with tainted cheesecake in the latter's Queens, New York home. Nasyrova had allegedly been attempting to steal the identity of Tsvyk, who looked like her, and had laced the sugary confection with phenazepam, a powerful Russian-made tranquilizer.
"This is a bizarre and twisted crime that could have resulted in the death of a Queens woman — whose only fault was that (they) shared similar features," said Queens District Attorney Richard Brown at the time.
6. A Suspicious White Powder
A practical joke gone wrong almost resulted in the jailing of a University of Miami student.
Jonathan Harrington's desk was found covered in a suspicious white substance during a dormitory inspection in 2015, according to The Miami New Times, a Miami, Florida-based news organization. Harrington claimed the powder was simply sugar and that the scene was an elaborate prank on his part. However, a false positive meant he was arrested for felony cocaine possession instead. Charges were eventually dropped when lab results proved Harrington right, but the whole incident almost landed him in jail.
“It was indeed powdered sugar — 23.7 grams of the finest you can buy at Publix. I know the amount from the police report,” Harrington said. “I doubt they’d believe me. To them it is more plausible that I left $1,500 worth of cocaine strewn around my apartment.”
[Photo: Thanksgiving meal by John Moore / Getty Images]
Crime Time is your destination for true crime stories from around the world, breaking crime news, and information about Oxgen's original true crime shows and documentaries. Sign up for our Crime Time Newsletter and subscribe to our true crime podcast Martinis & Murder for all the best true crime content.