Courts & Crime

California land heir arrested in massive federal fraud case

Frederick Scott Salyer, heir to one of the biggest land empires in California history, was arrested today in New York City after being charged in Sacramento federal court with massive fraud in connection with the operation of his SK Foods LP.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said Salyer was planning to flee the country and already transferred millions of dollars from bank accounts formerly associated with SK Foods entities to accounts in the Caribbean and Liechtenstein.

SK Foods, until it was sold out of bankruptcy last year as federal agents closed in on Salyer, was a grower, processor, and worldwide distributor of tomato and other food products sold to manufacturers, food-service distributors and marketers and retailers.

Salyer, 54, who lived in Pebble Beach, began planning to abscond after guilty pleas by several former SK Foods employees and customers. 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.

Wagner praised the FBI "for its excellent work in apprehending" Salyer. Agents met him as he got off a flight from London to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Salyer is charged in a criminal complaint filed Jan. 5 and unsealed today with 20 counts of mail and wire fraud linked to a maze of schemes to bilk corporate customers through bribery and food misbranding and adulteration.