Scott Salyer, former owner of SK Foods LP, was sentenced to six years in prison for racketeering and price fixing.
Judge Lawrence Karlton sentenced the tomato grower and processor Feb. 12. Salyer faced 4-7 years after pleading guilty last March. Since then he has lived under house arrest in Pebble Beach, Calif. — time that will not count against his sentence.
Salyer, 57, is scheduled to begin his sentence April 9, according to U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner. After prison, he has three years of supervised release.
The judge also ordered him to forfeit $3.45 million. A restitution hearing is set for March 9.
Salyer was owner and chief executive officer of Monterey, Calif.-based SK Foods from 1990 to 2009. The company, which declared bankruptcy in 2009 and was later purchased by Olam International, had additional facilities in Lemoore, Williams and Ripon, Calif.
In his plea, Salyer admitted to prompting broker Randall Rahal to pay bribes and kickbacks to purchasing officers for Kraft Foods, Frito-Lay, and B&G Foods — all customers of SK Foods — over a four-year period. The intent, according to court documents, was to induce Kraft’s Robert Watson, Frito-Lay’s Richard Wahl, and B&G’s Robert Turner to promote SK Foods’ interests over their employers’ interests.
Lab test results for tomato paste were routinely falsified at Salyer’s direction, according to the plea. Former employees Alan Huey and Jennifer Dahlman were ordered 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 status as organic or conventional.
An illegal target price agreement was discussed with other tomato paste sellers. According to the court record, Salyer got a co-conspirator to agree to withdraw a lower offer to a customer.
“Salyer and his co-conspirators ripped off consumers and reaped big profits by manipulating prices on millions of pounds of processed tomatoes,” Jose Martinez, special agent in charge of the Internal Revenue Service’s criminal investigation arm, said in a news release.
“This case is ending, but our efforts to ensure the integrity of the agriculture and food processing industry in this region will continue,” Wagner said in the release.
Supporters of Salyer established a website at www.scott-salyer.com dubbed “Scott Salyer: Operation Rotten Tomato.”
According to court documents, in late 2009 Salyer moved more than $3 million to Andorra and made a $50,000 deposit on a condominium there. Andorra, a principality between France and Spain, has no extradition treaty with the U.S. Salyer was arrested in February 2010 upon arriving in New York on a flight from London.
Ten other defendants have pleaded guilty in the case. Two have been sentenced and the remaining eight are scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 26.