Clearwater, FL – A door-to-door meat salesman who refused to take “no” for an answer has led the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office to launch an investigation into the sales tactics of a Pinellas Park frozen meat business.
The investigation by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office began May 11 when an 85-year-old Largo woman reported that she’d been harassed by a frozen meat salesman. The victim said she was retrieving mail from the mailbox of her home in the 9900 block of Ulmerton Road when Ronald Vanwie Jr., 44, approached her.
She told the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office that Vanwie began trying to sell her frozen meat through the company he represented, Gourmet Grocery LLC of Pinellas Park. The woman wasn’t interested in purchasing meat and walked back to her front door. But she said Vanwie followed her, continuing to pitch the meat he was selling.
The victim entered her home and tried to close the front door but she said Vanwie forced his way inside her home, pressing her to purchase meat. The victim said she asked him to leave several times but he refused.
“Vanwie insisted she was going to purchase meat from him and became increasingly more aggressive each time she declined to purchase the meat,” said the sheriff’s office.
Vanwie demanded the victim pay him $500 for an order of meat, according to the sheriff’s office. The woman began to fear for her safety.
“(The victim) told detectives she was frightened of Vanwie who insisted she pay $500 for the package of meat,” according to the sheriff.
The victim told him she didn’t have $500 but wrote him a check for $200. Vanwie then placed a package of meat in her freezer and left.
The Pinellas Sheriff’s Office has arrested Vanwie and charged him with one count of robbery of an elderly person, solicitation without a permit and failure to provide a three-day right to cancel.
During its ongoing investigation, the sheriff’s office found two other Gourmet Grocery sales representative who used similar aggressive tactics to sell their meat. Deputies also arrested Andrew Tsaffaras, 56, and Erick J. Harmon, 39.
Gourmet Grocery LLC’s headquarters is located at 6553 46th St. N., Suite 905, Pinellas Park.
The company is not accredited by the Better Business Bureau, however, the BBB has given the company an F rating on a scale of A (best) to F (worst).
The BBB said there have been 14 complaints filed against Gourmet Grocery with its office.
“BBB has received a pattern of complaints concerning Gourmet Grocery’s sales practices of going door to door and the quality of the meat being sold,” said the BBB. “Consumers have alleged the meat bought from the business was of low quality with a very high price, and the business was selling out of the back of trucks door to door. To date, Gourmet Grocery LLC has not responded to BBB’s request about the pattern of complaints.”
Gourmet Grocery did not return calls from Patch.
Michael H. Parmelee is the listed principal for the business. The business filed as a Limited Liability Company through the Florida Department of State in 2013. However, a search for Gourmet Grocery LLC through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s database showed no results for a business license for a permanent food service or restaurant under that name.
The sheriff’s office is looking for other possible victims of zealous Gourmet Grocery meat salesmen. Anyone with information should contact the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office at (727) 582-6200.