Jeffrey Beasley, a former vice president of SK Foods, Monterey, Calif., was charged Aug. 19 with one felony count in an ongoing corruption investigation of the tomato processing industry.

Beasley has agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy charges and cooperate with the investigation, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Sacramento.

Beasley of Lockeford, Calif., was charged with participating in conspiracies involving honest services fraud and the introduction and delivery of misbranded food with the intent to defraud during his tenure at SK Foods, the U.S. Attorney’s office said in a statement.

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, between January 2004 and April 2008, Beasley, along with other SK Foods employees, bribed their own employees and defrauded SK Foods’ customers, including Kraft Foods Inc., Frito-Lay Inc. and B&G Foods Inc., by charging inflated prices.

Beasley’s attorney, Randy Thomas, told The Associated Press his client was not a key player in the government's case but will tell the truth.

The bribes also led customer purchasing agents to disclose to SK Foods the bidding and other proprietary information of its competitors, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Beasley, along with other employees, used the proprietary information to set prices.

Beasley is the latest individual, and the first SK Foods senior executive, to be charged in connection with the government’s tomato industry probe. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation, and the United States Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division are involved in the multi-year investigation that became public after SK Foods’ Monterey offices were raided by federal agents last year.
Robert Watson, White Plains, N.Y.; James Wahl, Dallas; and Robert Turner, Randolph, N.J., former purchasing managers at Kraft, Frito-Lay and B&G Foods, have already pleaded guilty to receiving illicit payments from former SK Foods’ sales broker and director Randall Rahal of Ramsey, N.J.

Rahal pleaded guilty in December to racketeering, bid rigging and contract allocation conspiracies, among other charges.