Food broker accuses California company of racketeering

Randall Lee Rahal, a New Jersey sales broker, leveled a startling allegation with a guilty plea in Sacramento federal court Tuesday, telling the judge that SK Foods L.P., one of the nation's largest processors of tomato-based products, has been run as a "racketeering enterprise" since 2004.

Rahal admitted that he used SK money to bribe purchasing managers whose list of employers reads like a who's who of food industry giants. In return, he related, the managers bought SK products at inflated prices and supplied SK with competitors' bidding and proprietary information.

He also admitted conspiring with SK to defraud some of its customers by supplying inferior and mislabeled products.

The charges against Rahal are the first to emerge from a nationwide probe of food pricing by federal prosecutors, FBI and IRS agents, and antitrust investigators. The inquiry was sparked by reports of collusion among farmers, processors and retailers that may be helping drive the price of groceries to all-time highs.

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