FRESNO, California (AP) -- A former executive for a California-based tomato processor agreed to plead guilty to participating in a conspiracy to drive up food prices nationwide, federal prosecutors said Wednesday.

Alan Scott Huey, who served as a senior vice president at SK Foods between 2004 and 2008, is accused of taking part in a scheme to bribe purchasing agents from major food companies to buy tomato products from the Monterey company rather than its competitors.

The products were then allegedly sold at inflated prices. Some of the food companies included Kraft Foods Inc., Frito-Lay Inc. and B&G Foods Inc.

Huey, 53, also was facing a charge stemming from an alleged SK Foods shipment of tomato products with mold levels that exceeded federal limits. But prosecutors have agreed to drop that charge in exchange for Huey's cooperation in an ongoing federal investigation into the tomato industry, said Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The probe has already led to convictions against other SK Foods employees as well as employees at Kraft, Frito-Lay and B&G Foods, prosecutors said.

"The effect of this conspiracy was to provide lower quality processed tomato products at inflated prices," U.S. Attorney Lawrence Brown said in a statement.

Huey is expected to appear in court Nov. 17 to enter his plea, Horwood said. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted on the conspiracy charge.

Huey's attorney, Cristina Arguedas, said her client was a "good man, who made a mistake, and he's doing his best to make amends."

Copyright 2009 The AP.

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