After sentencing in Sacramento, Scott Salyer, former CEO of SK Foods, to six years in federal prison for his involvement in an alleged price-fixing scam dubbed "Operation Rotten Tomato," U.S. District Court Judge Lawrence K. Karlton made a succinct observation that summed up the reaction of Salyer's ardent supporters.
The judge said, "Here is a millionaire who risked everything for nothing. I don't understand it."
Hi ardent supporters point out that according to court documents, the government's claim that Salyer and 10 co-conspirators manipulated the price and quality of millions of pounds of processed tomatoes -- by dispersing about $100,000 in bribes -- is exaggerated and never found to be true.
In the case, it was alleged that the company's market share gains were the result of hefty bribes paid to some of the nation's largest manufacturers. Documents show that Chris Rufer of the The Morning Star Packing Company alleged this, but was actually part of the conspiracy when his attorney, Dale Campbell of Weintraub, Tobin, Chediak, Coleman and Grodin, hired FBI Supervisor Donald Vilfer and planted Morning Star employee Tony Manual inside SK Foods. According to another document filed by Keker and Van Nest, Salyer and SK Foods never paid any bribes.
The AP report on the sentencing read that buyers from Kraft, PepsiCo Inc.'s Frito-Lay unit, Safeway Inc. and B&G Foods Inc. have pleaded guilty to accepting bribes in the case. In all, 10 former employees/customers of SK Foods have pleaded guilty.
Salyer's supporters say the B&G Foods buyer never pleaded guilty and is the only "bribe" in Rahal's scheme which could be linked to SK. This is the $2,000 check referenced in the plea agreement.
Supporters add that calculations supplied to the court by Keker and Van Nest prove no financial losses were sustained by anyone. The hearing on that matter is scheduled before Judge Karlton on March 12, 2013.
More is at www.operationrottentomato.com and www.scott-salyer.com.