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Former SK Foods CEO gets 6-year prison sentence


Salyer asks for low end of sentence due to time served, health reasons


By MATEUSZ PERKOWSKI


Capital Press


A scheme to fix the price of tomatoes has netted a former processing company executive six years behind bars.


Frederick Scott Salyer, 57, was sentenced Feb. 12 after pleading guilty to racketeering and price-fixing charges last year.


After his release, Slayer will be on probation for three years. He must also forfeit $3.45 million that was previously seized by the federal government.


Salyer was ordered to surrender to federal authorities to begin his sentence on April 9.


As the CEO of SK Foods, which had several plants in California, Salyer directed a food broker to promote the company by paying bribes to the purchasing agents of Kraft, Frito-Lay and B&G Foods, according to the plea agreement.


SK Foods also falsified documents about tomato paste quality to convince clients to "accept product that the customers may otherwise have rejected," the agreement said.


Salyer also pled guilty to negotiating a fixed price for tomato paste with other sellers that did business with McCain Foods, which used it to make pizzas.


The government had recorded conversations, emails and other evidence to back up its allegations of price-fixing, according to the plea agreement.


SK Foods went bankrupt in 2009 and was taken over by Olam, an international processor and trader of agricultural goods. The deal was recently the subject of controversy because an investment firm accused Olam of overvaluing SK Foods to boost the appearance of profits.


Under the plea agreement, Salyer agreed not to ask for fewer than four years in prison as long as the federal government didn't seek more than seven years. He faced up to 20 years for the racketeering charge and up to 10 years for the conspiracy to restrain trade.


Salyer asked for a sentence on the lower end of the range agreed to in the plea deal, citing the seven months he had already spent in a California jail and more than two years under house arrest.


According to a court document, a sentence of more than four years would be excessive because Salyer suffers from "diabetes, peptic ulcer disease, back and ankle pain, insomnia, post-traumatic stress disorder, anemia and alcoholism."


Salyer also asked for leniency because the food broker had been paying bribes to tomato paste buyers long before he did business with SK Foods.



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