Crooked Tomato Broker Actually Tried the Old 'I Found $100' Bit
The federal investigation into corruption in the tomato industry, which has been ongoing since 2008, took a new turn recently, with revelations that some of the tomatoes that were sold to food industry heavyweights such as Kraft were contaminated with mold and other non-delicious additives.
The central figure in the scandal is Randall Lee Rahal, a New Jersey man who acted as a broker for SK foods, the now-bankrupt tomato supplier that was bribing food producers to purchase tomatoes from SK, rather than competing suppliers. Rahal pleaded guilty to racketeering, money laundering and antitrust violations in December 2008, and agreed to cooperate with the government's investigation. Rahal was the guy who made the payments to purchasing executives to ensure that they would buy SK tomatoes, even if it meant paying inflated prices. According to the article in The New York Times, Rahal was captured on a wiretap promising to help out a Kraft executive who was in dire need of some cash to pay his taxes.
Even more incredibly, a witness apparently described Rahal's scientific method for figuring out which buyers would be receptive to bribes:
According to court papers, 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.
Seriously? Sounds a bit amateurish to me. The former CEO of SK, Frederick Scott Salyer, who had been on the lam, was arrested earlier this month as he deplaned at JFK, and charged with RICO violations and obstruction of justice. Salyer was allegedly involved in the sale of tainted tomatoes and the falsification of test results, which was a much more widespread problem than the bribery.
Our friends over at Food Safety News were, of course, on the story, though both Kraft and the government insist there was no health risk from the "moldy paste," which, incidentally, would be a great name for a band.
Posted by Eric Lipman on February 25, 2010 at 12:03 PM | Permalink
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