Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Kickbacks and Embezzlement Allegations Embroil California Grower
SK Foods LP, a Lemoore, California-based grower and processor of tomato and other food products, has had its share of employee misconduct recently. Robert L. Watson, 59, of White Plains, N.Y., a senior purchasing manager at Illinois-based Kraft Foods Inc.'s, pleaded guilty to charges of receiving $158,000 in bribes from SK executive, Randall Lee Rahal, 59, of Ramsey, New Jersey. In return, Watson ensured that Kraft purchased approximately 230 million pounds of tomato products from SK Foods. Rahal also pleaded guilty last month to charges of racketeering, price fixing, bid rigging, and contract allocation conspiracies on behalf of SK. He agreed to cooperate with the government and forfeit $600,000 in ill-gotten gains. In all, prosecutors contend that representatives of six food companies including Agusa Inc., Kraft Foods Inc., Safeway Inc., B&G Foods Inc., ConAgra Foods Inc., and Frito-Lay, a division of Pepsico Inc., received bribes from Rahal.
Separately, Anthony Ray Manuel, 57, of Turlock, California pleaded guilty yesterday to embezzling some $975,000 from Morning Star Packing Co., for whom he worked until joining SK Foods in 2005. Manuel was terminated by SK Foods on Monday, according to reports. It is unclear whether he was involved in wrongdoing while at SK Foods. Manuel also plead guilty to tax evasion.