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Supermarket supervisor charged in strip search

He allegedly forced an employee to disrobe as instructed by a "police officer" on the phone. Police say it was a hoax.

Associated Press
Published July 15, 2003

PANAMA CITY, Fla. - A supervisor at a supermarket was arrested after an employee said her boss strip-searched her, claiming to be following orders from a police officer on the phone.

Police said Monday the call was a hoax and that similar calls have been made elsewhere.

James Marvin Pate, 36, an assistant manager at a Winn-Dixie store, was arrested Saturday on charges of false imprisonment and lewd and lascivious behavior. He was released on $10,000 bail.

The woman told investigators Pate called her into his office Friday and told her she would go to jail for theft if she didn't remove her clothing and submit to a search ordered by the caller.

Police said he handed the phone over to the woman, who then undressed. Pate took her clothing, forced her to pose in different positions and refused to give her clothing back for an extended time, according to an arrest report.

Authorities have received complaints about similar calls, said police Lt. Claude Arnold. He said investigators in North Dakota told Panama City police last week that similar calls had been traced to pay phones in Panama City.

Pate was not at work Monday and could not be reached at home.

Lee Sims, a regional security director for Winn-Dixie in Montgomery, Ala., said he could not comment on Pate's arrest. However, he said a number of such prank calls have been made to Winn-Dixie and other groceries. Sims said he didn't know of any other Winn-Dixie employees arrested.

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