Pennsylvania Woman Arrested, Charged Following Coronavirus 'Prank' of Coughing on More Than $30,000 Grocery Store Produce

Pennsylvania authorities arrested Margaret Cirko, who is suspected of coughing on more than $30,000 worth of grocery store produce in a "prank" during the coronavirus pandemic. The 35-year-old was arrested and charged with terrorist threats on Thursday. Hanover Township, Pennsylvania police said Cirko went into Gerrity's Supermarket on Wednesday and claimed she was sick before coughing and spitting on produce and other products.

Cirko is known to authorities for issues in the past, police said, reports Fox News. She also tried to steal a 12-pack of beer from the store and continued her behavior in several aisles before she was told to leave the store. Joe Fasula, the store's owner called her behavior a "twisted prank" after they had to throw out $35,000 worth of groceries.

"While there is little doubt this woman was doing it as a very twisted prank, we will not take any chances with the health and well-being of our customers," Fasula wrote on Facebook. "We had no choice but to throw out all of the products she came in contact with. Working closely with the Hanover Township health inspector, we identified every area that she was in, we disposed of the product and thoroughly cleaned and disinfected everything."

"Although we have not yet quantified the total loss, we estimate the value to be well over $35,000," the store owner continued. "We are checking to see if our insurance company will cover it, but even if they do, our rates will surely go up next year. I am also absolutely sick to my stomach about the loss of food. While it is always a shame when food is wasted, in these times when so many people are worried about the security of our food supply, it is even more disturbing."

Fasula said the only "silver lining" to the incident was it gave employees a chance to test the store's safety plans. He also shared a list of guidelines customers should follow when shopping at grocery stores during the pandemic.

Hanover Township police said Cirko had a mental health evaluation at a local hospital. They are planning to test her for COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. She was charged with two felony counts of terrorist threats, one for threats to use a "biological agent" and another for criminal mischief. She was also charged with misdemeanor counts for criminal attempt to commit retail theft and disorderly conduct. She is being held on $50,000 bail and a preliminary hearing is set for April 8.

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There are more than 137,000 coronavirus cases in the U.S. as of Sunday per this writing, with more than 2,400 reported deaths.

Photo credit: Fox News/Hanover Township Police