Former owner of California-based SK Foods pleads guilty to racketeering in national tomato price-fixing plot; ex-owner expected to receive prison sentence of between four years and seven years

SACRAMENTO, California , March 23, 2012 () – A former California food company owner pleaded guilty Thursday to racketeering in a national tomato price-fixing plot.

Frederick Scott Salyer, 56, was charged with bribing purchasing managers to buy tomato products from his company, Monterey-based SK Foods. Prosecutors say he fixed prices and rigged bids for the sale of tomato products to McCain Foods USA Inc., ConAgra Foods Inc. and Kraft Foods Inc.

Salyer pleaded guilty in federal court in Sacramento to two charges: racketeering and price fixing. The charges carry maximum 20-year prison sentences, although Salyer is expected to face four to seven years behind bars at his sentencing scheduled for July 10. He remains free on $6 million bail.

Slayer was accused of being at the center of price-fixing ring that helped SK Foods capture 14 percent of the processed tomato market and rise to the second largest tomato processor in the state before investigators raided the company in 2008.

He had been indicted on 12 felony counts, including bribery, conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Buyers from Kraft, Frito-Lay Inc., Safeway Inc. and B&G Foods Inc. have pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in the case. In all, 10 former employees or customers of SK Foods have pleaded guilty in the investigation.

In addition, several lawsuits have been filed against SK Foods, which filed for bankruptcy protection in May 2009. Olam International of Singapore purchased the company two months later for $39 million.

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