Latest Information:
The Two-Way
4:18 pm
Fri March 23, 2012

Calif. Exec Pleads Guilty In Huge Tomato Price-Fixing Scheme

Originally published on Fri March 23, 2012 4:21 pm

Frederick Scott Salyer, 56, has pleaded guilty in a massive tomato price fixing scheme that investigators say affected almost every American home.

Salyer, the former chief executive officer of SK Foods LP, said he bribed purchasers and fixed prices for the sale of his tomato products to McCain Foods USA Inc., ConAgra Foods Inc. and Kraft Foods Inc.

The AP reports:

"He also admitted that SK Foods routinely falsified lab test results for its tomato paste and that he ordered former employees to falsify information including the product's mold content and whether it qualified as "organic," the U.S. attorney's office said.

"'Salyer and his co-conspirators manipulated prices on millions of pounds of processed tomatoes and improperly influenced supermarkets and big food companies into buying substandard tomato products put into brands found in almost every American home,' said Rick Goss, the assistant special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service's criminal investigations unit. 'Salyer and the defendants' scheme ripped off consumers and reaped big profits.'

"Herbert M. Brown, special agent in charge of the FBI's Sacramento field office, said it took authorities more than six years to unravel the 'web of lies and bribes that Salyer and his cohorts wove.'"

Businessweek also reports that SK employees, at Salyer's direction, "falsified documents concerning the percentage of natural tomato solids, mold count and production date of its products, according to the plea agreement."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.