Door-to-door meat salesmen accused of running off with woman's grill

LAND O'LAKES — A 54-year-old woman was home alone Tuesday when she heard a knock at the door. She peeked out a window and saw two young men. It was daylight — a little before 6 p.m. — but she didn't answer the door as she was there by herself and she had no idea who these people were.

A few minutes later, she heard voices coming from her back patio. She looked through a curtain and saw the two men sizing up her $450 stainless steel barbecue grill, according to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office.

The men, authorities said, were door-to-door meat salesmen.

The woman called 911 and described what she was seeing: Two men in white shirts and dark shorts, running with her grill and loading it into a yellow van emblazoned with the company name Direct USA, as well as a meat vendor's phone number on both sides of the van.

A few minutes later the van was spotted at a gas station. The two men — Juan Mendoza-Nava, 25, of Fort Myers and Dominic Panzino, 34, of Tampa — were arrested and charged with burglary and grand theft.

The grill was recovered. Mendoza-Nava confessed to the theft, the report states. He said he and his colleague had been driving around and Mendoza-Nava mentioned he needed a grill, which then led to them scouting out the back patio of what they believed to be an empty house on Grand Forks Drive in Stagecoach Village, a report states.

Panzino denied stealing the grill, which he said was inside the van full of meat when he was picked up for work that morning.

The duo were salesmen for Direct USA, which has a grill on its website and sells meat, meat and more meat: filets, seafood, chops, ribs. Orders are taken online or in person, and meat is delivered to customers' doorsteps.

Matt Johnson, vice president of Direct USA, said both men have been fired. He was outraged during a phone interview Thursday, in which he said the two men were new hires and that the company, through background checks, does "the best that we can to prevent people like that from working for us."

"It's unacceptable," Johnson said of the alleged crime.

He said he wants to personally apologize to the victim.

Panzino and Mendoza-Nava are being held at the Pasco County jail in lieu of $12,000 bail.

Erin Sullivan can be reached at esullivan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6229.

Door-to-door meat salesmen accused of running off with woman's grill 10/07/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 7, 2010 10:16pm]

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