MONTEREY, Calif.- It was a scandal that first made headlines in 2009, but the investigation began in 2006 and years later, a Monterey Peninsula food executive was sentenced for fixing the price of tomatoes.
The former CEO of SK foods, Frederick Salyer, was sentenced to six years in prison for racketeering and price fixing. Salyer, of Pebble Beach, is scheduled to turn himself in on April 9.
According to prosecutors, Salyer fixed prices and rigged bids for the sale of tomato products.
United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced that the Judge in the case ordered a forfeiture of $3.45 million. A restitution hearing is set for March 9. According to court documents, between 1990 and 2009, Salyer was the CEO and owner of SK Foods LP, a grower, processor, and international seller of tomato paste and other processed agricultural products with facilities in Monterey, Lemoore, Williams, and Ripon, Calif.
In his plea, Salyer admitted that he operated SK Foods as a racketeering organization. According to Wagner's news release, from January 2004 to April 2008, Salyer encouraged food broker Randall Rahal to pay bribes and kickbacks to purchasing officers employed by SK Foods's customers Kraft Foods, Frito-Lay, and B&G Foods. The intent was to induce Kraft's Robert Watson, Frito-Lay's Richard Wahl, and B&G's Robert Turner to promote the interests of SK Foods over their employers' interests.
U.S. Attorney Wagner said: "Scott Salyer used bribery and fraud to deceive his customers about SK Foods' products in order to maximize his profits. Over a period of years, he turned his company into a machine of corruption and economic crime. This case is ending, but our efforts to ensure the integrity of the agriculture and food processing industry in this region will continue."