Criminal Misdeeds Catch Up with Cali Tomato Industry

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A former purchasing manager for Safeway will start singing to federal prosecutors about widespread criminal activity within California’s tomato-production industry after pleading guilty to wire fraud charges. Michael Chavez of Fremont admits to taking bribes in exchange for contracts to buy products from now-bankrupt Bay Area tomato processor SK Foods. Similar admissions have been made by executives at Kraft Foods, B&G; Foods, and Frito-Lay Inc. in an investigation that involves both the IRS and FBI. Most disturbing is Courthouse News’ mention that SK employees have dropped dimes on such industry misdeeds as shipping fruit that “while not a health threat, contained mold count levels that were above the federal regulatory threshold, or which bore altered dates of production or other falsified product information.” SK declared bankruptcy in 2009, while Chavez could face up to 20 years incarceration, and the investigation widens.

Something Rotten in Tomato Industry [Courthouse News]