Courts & Crime

Fraud case reveals rotten part of tomato business

A former SK Foods executive has been charged in Sacramento federal court, the latest expansion of a sprawling case of fraud, bribery and price fixing in the tomato-processing industry.

In court papers filed today, Alan Huey, a former senior vice president at the company, admitted to falsifying documents in order to sell bulk tomato paste that was older, moldier or more diluted than SK Foods claimed, violating federal quality and labeling standards.

Huey has agreed to plead guilty to a felony conspiracy charge and to cooperate in the government's investigation, according to a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Sacramento.

The government first accused SK Foods of bribery in an August 2008 lawsuit. Since then, the case has expanded to include employees of Kraft, Frito-Lay and other food companies.

California produces more than 95 percent of the nation's processing tomatoes and about 30 percent of the world supply. Several Sacramento Valley and Delta counties are major growing and processing areas.