MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (AP/WHTM) — A 61-year-old Pennsylvania man was sentenced Tuesday to four years in federal prison for consumer product tampering.

Prosecutors said Robert K. Burns of Mechanicsburg had previously admitted that nearly three years ago he returned tampered items to stores in the Harrisburg region. He pleaded guilty in August 2021.

Burns admitted that in May 2019 he replaced pills in multiple bottles of lansoprazole with other items, resealed the bottles, and then returned the bottles to a store in Enola. Prosecutors say Burns similarly tampered with and then returned other products, including sinus relief products, which he returned to a Mechanicsburg store in May and June 2019, and toothpaste, which he returned to a different Mechanicsburg store in May 2019.

In a presentence report filed with the court in December, Burns’ lawyer called it a “petty, if sophisticated, theft,” saying no could have been hurt by Burns’ behavior and that harming others was not his intention.

The letter from Burns’ lawyer said he worked for 30 years in consumer products production, sales and supervision — and believed the tampered items would have to be thrown out, not restocked.

Prosecutors said the length of Burns’ sentence was justified by his sophisticated methods, his repeated actions and the potential danger from consumer packaging tampering.

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Burns’ lawyer, Craig E. Kauzlarich, declined comment on the sentence.

When Burns’ home was searched and police took medication packaging, glue, jars and white cream, a warrant affidavit said he returned items to the same grocery store at least 24 times.

But Kauzlarich said the guilty plea only concerned one return, a heartburn medication taken back a drug store.

“FDA is fully committed to the vigorous criminal investigation and prosecution of any individual who threatens the U.S. consumer product supply,” said Special Agent in Charge Mark S. McCormack, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal Investigations, Metro Washington Field Office. “Today’s sentencing sends a clear signal that illicit tampering activity will not be tolerated.”

The case was investigated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Office of Criminal
Investigations, and the Silver Spring Township Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney
Carlo D. Marchioli and former Assistant U.S. Attorney James T. Clancy prosecuted the case