Monterey County

Pebble Beach man sentenced in tomato price-fixing scam

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Two former officials with one of the nation's leading tomato processing companies have been sentenced in a federal case.

Randall Rahal of Nantucket, Mass., was sentenced Tuesday to three years in prison. Prosecutors say the former SK Foods broker bribed buyers at food giants such as Kraft Foods, Safeway Inc. and Frito-Lay, according to The Associated Press.

Pebble Beach resident Alan Huey, formerly a vice president at SK Foods, was sentenced to three years' probation and 60 days' confinement for directing others to falsely label food products.

Federal prosecutors had asked the court to sentence Huey to no more or no less than 20 months in custody.

Click here to read the original complaint against Huey.

The company's owner, Frederick Scott Salyer of Pebble Beach, was sentenced last year to six years in prison for engaging in a price-fixing scam.

Salyer had turned a small canning company he bought from his father into the second-largest tomato processor in California. SK Foods, which has filed for bankruptcy protection, had several processing plants in the Central Valley, including one in Monterey.

According to federal court documents, in his plea Salyer admitted that he operated SK Foods as a racketeering organization. Between 2004 and 2008, Salyer encouraged Rahal to pay bribes and kickbacks to purchasing officers employed by SK Foods' customers.

At Salyer's direction, SK Foods also routinely falsified the lab test results for its tomato paste. Salyer ordered former employees including Huey to falsify tomato paste grading factors, and SK Foods lied about its product's percentage of natural tomato soluble solids, mold count, production date, and whether the tomato paste qualified as organic, according to the FBI.

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