Crafty Conspirators Plotted Moldy Tomato Paste Scam

The most disturbing corruption story ever is in today's Times business section. Forget Enron, forget the city council thieves, forget Joe Bruno.

Consider the wretched people who took bribes in exchange for letting suppliers slip moldy tomato paste into our most trusted tomato brand names. Purchasing managers at Kraft Foods, Frito-Lay and Safeway are among those who have already pled guilty in a bi-coastal fraud probe by federal officials in New York and California. There are millions of pounds of tainted tomato paste involved here, reports the Times' William Neuman, paste that should have been prohibited by federal law but instead ended up in millions of spaghetti bowls, slurped up by unsuspecting citizens.

That said, the approach used by ringleaders of the scheme has to be admired. A New Jersey man named Randall Rahal, who was a broker for a major tomato supplier, is said by prosecutors to have devised his own integrity test to detect potential co-conspirators likely to take bribes. Reports Neuman: "Mr. Rahal recounted how he would drop a $100 bill on the floor, then bend to pick it up, saying, 'You must have dropped this. Is it yours?' If the person said yes, Mr. Rahal considered him receptive."

We once tried this same test in the newsroom of the Daily News. Our targets were top editors seated in a cluster nodding in agreement about the worthlessness of most of their workforce. We used just a $5 bill. "Who dropped this?" we cried out. Seven hands shot in the air. Image (cc) Fastily.


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