Calif. exec pleads guilty to tomato price-fixing

Frederick Scott Salyer formerly owned SK Foods of MontereyFrederick Scott Salyer formerly owned SK Foods of Monterey(AP) — A former California food company owner has pleaded guilty to racketeering in a national tomato price-fixing plot.

Frederick Scott Salyer entered the plea Friday in federal court in Sacramento. The 56-year-old is scheduled for sentencing July 10 and remains free on $6 million bail.

Salyer 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.

He pleaded guilty 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.

Prosecutors say 10 other food company representatives were convicted.

From its establishment in 1990, SK Foods grew to become the second largest tomato processor in California, with a 14 percent market share in the U.S.

With a processing plant spanning 82 acres in Lemoore and another 42-acre site in Williams, the company had a peak capacity to produce 1.5 million tons of raw tomatoes. After filing for bankruptcy in 2009, its assets were sold to Singapore-based Olam International.