Federal agents playing catch-up with alleged tomato racketeer Scott Salyer scooped him up Thursday at JFK as the California millionaire facing fraud charges was supposedly scheming to flee the U.S.
Not only is Salyer, 54 and the former CEO of SK Foods, allegedly the most rotten tomato in the country — he’s accused of knowingly selling hazardously moldy tomato paste, for cryin’ out loud — but he’s also heir to one of the biggest land empires in California history.
The feds say he perpetrated a massive scheme of fraud and bribery on big supermarket chains and other corporate customers and sold adulterated tomato products. His attorneys deny all charges.
The former CEO faces 20 felony counts in a case brought by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Sacramento, which says he laid “various schemes to defraud SK Foods’ corporate customers through bribery and food misbranding and adulteration.”
Salyer is accused of “a scheme in which his company doled out bribes to purchasing managers at major supermarkets and foodmakers,” says the San Francisco Chronicle. In return, the purchasing managers’ companies signed contracts with SK Foods at elevated prices, the paper says.
This is huge news in the food-processing industry. SK Foods was a giant company until, as the Sacramento Bee says, it was sold out of bankruptcy last year as the feds closed in on him.
“Purchasing executives for a who’s who of the nation’s food companies have pleaded guilty to bribing SK Foods in return for various anti-competitive arrangements,” says the Bee.
He was charged January 5 in a criminal complaint and was returning to the U.S. from London when feds put the squeeze on him in New York City. They say Salyer wasn’t finished with his travels and has squirreled away money in the Caribbean and Liechtenstein.