Authorities on Tuesday charged the owner of a Bergen County 7-Eleven with child endangerment for selling a sanitizer she mixed herself using a commercial cleanser that ended up burning four local boys.
Manisha Bharade, 47, Wood-Ridge also was charged with deceptive business practices before being released on a summons pending court action.
Bharade mixed "commercially available foaming sanitizer, which was not meant for resale," with water in pump bottles -- unwittingly causing a harmful chemical reaction -- then sold them for $2.50 each at her store in River Vale, authorities said.
“She wasn't trying to make a lot of money and obviously didn't mean to hurt anybody,” a ranking law enforcement official told Daily Voice. “But she’s no chemist.”
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal and Bergen County Prosecutor Mark Musella jointly announced the arrest Tuesday evening.
At the same time, Grewal announced that the Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA) is investigating the store’s practices "regarding the sale and promotion of health and sanitation products offered by the store since the emergence of the coronavirus outbreak."
The probe is being conducted by Musella's office and River Vale police, the attorney general said.
Three 10-year-old boys and one 11-year-old boy were burned when the put the cleanser on their bodies, Grewal and Musella said.
Fourteen bottles in all were sold at the River Vale Road store. Five bottles were turned over to River Vale police but nine were still unaccounted for as of Tuesday evening.
The bottles, with different-colored spray-pump caps, included the words "Airport Carry-on" and "3oz Mini Spray" on the label.
Analysis was being conducted to determine the exact ingredients, authorities said.
Bharade was charged with four counts of endangering the welfare of a child and one of deceptive business practices.
Meanwhile, the state Division of Consumer Affairs sent a letter to the store’s owners demanding that they preserve all records relating to the preparation and sale of the “spray sanitizer” seized by law enforcement.
The order also covers the "the sale and advertisement of any health-related or sanitation-related products that the store began marketing or offering for sale after December 31, 2019, the first day that the government in Wuhan, China confirmed illnesses now known as COVID-19."
“Let me be perfectly clear: if you try to take advantage of our residents during a public health emergency, we will hold you accountable,” Grewal said. “Retailers who try to make a quick buck by exploiting others will face civil and criminal consequences.”
“Bergen County HazMat, the Bergen County Department of Health, Bergen County Office of Emergency Management, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, and DCA have all been notified and are working with law enforcement to monitor the situation and ensure the safety of the public, which is our paramount concern,” Musella added.
Anyone who purchased hand sanitizer from the River Vale 7-Eleven is asked to contact the River Vale Police Department at 201-664-1111.
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