The Strange Case of the Starbucks Juice Poison Plot

Alexander Abad-Santos
April 30, 2013
The Strange Case of the Starbucks Juice Poison Plot

Very bad news: A woman in San Jose tried to poison orange juice drinkers at a Starbucks by swapping in juice bottles filled with nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol. Somewhat good news: She's not on a tainted OJ rampage, and nobody would really drink a "toxic" smelling bottle of juice at a Starbucks, would they?

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Police arrested 50-year-old Ramineh Behbehanian for "felony poisoning" Monday night. The San Jose Mercury News has play-by-play of what happened at the Starbucks on Snell Avenue in Southern San Jose:

According to San Jose police, Behbehanian had walked into the shop around 3:45 p.m. when a customer reported seeing her remove two bottles of orange juice from her purse and placed them alongside other refrigerated items in the store. When the customer alerted store staff, the woman fled from the store.

According to police, one of the bottles Behbehanian temporarily placed in the refrigerated case was filled with a mixture of juice and rubbing alcohol; the other was a mix of juice and acetone nail polish remover. According to the National Library of Medicine, drinking nail polish remover can even put you into a coma and cause shortness of breath. And the Betty Ford Center notes that the "lethal dose of isopropyl alcohol by mouth in adult humans is about 8 ounces." 

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Thanks to surveillance video cameras, San Jose PD officers were able to track down the suspect's license plate. The question now is if Behbehanian swapped her tainted juices at other stores.  Investigators, ABC San Jose reports, don't believe her poison scheme spread to other cafés, but "Starbucks says it is checking its bottled beverages at other nearby stores." If she did infect other OJs, let's hope that customers would be able to smell the acetone and alcohol before they consumed it — the employees and store manager at the tainted Starbucks noticed a "toxic smell," according to multiple reports. 

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If found guilty of "felony poisoning," Behbehanian could face up to five years in jail — and she could face three more years because she used a substance that "may cause death" or "great bodily injury" upon another person. Police say her motive is unclear at the moment.