(April 7, 2:15 p.m.) Primavera Marketing Inc, and Prima Frutta Packing, both based in Linden, Calif., are gearing up for the 2008 cherry and apple harvests as members of the family that owns the two companies face charges that business funds were used for personal expenses.

“The matter is strictly personal. It won’t affect the companies at all,” said Richard Sambado, sales manager for Primavera Marketing.

Richard Sambado; his brother, Timothy Sambado; and his father, Lawrence Sambado, were arraigned April 4 on charges of filing false income tax returns. Lawrence Sambado’s wife, Beverly, and Timothy Sambado’s wife, Marie Josee Dusablan-Sambado, are facing related charges.

Prima Frutta and Primavera Marketing are California’s biggest cherry and apple packing and marketing operations. Last year, the two companies packed and sold 1.8 million boxes of cherries, more than 25% of the state’s volume of about 7 million cartons, Richard Sambado said.

The companies have an even larger stake in California’s apple deal. They packed and sold about 1.3 million cartons of apples in 2007, more than 40% of the state’s overall volume, he said.

Retailers should expect a slightly smaller California cherry crop for 2008, Sambado said, though new acreage could boost the volume in Kern County where the harvest begins.

“Last year’s crop was the biggest crop ever,” Sambado said. ”Weather conditions during harvest were completely perfect.”

Grower-shippers cannot expect to be that lucky again this year, he said.

For the apple crop, Sambado said he expects a larger deal for galas and grannies, with the volumes for fujis and Pink Ladies to be about the same as in 2007.

“We could be a little earlier than last year on the galas,” he said.

According to court records, the Sambado family has agreed on April 25 to plead guilty to the charges and pay back taxes of $192,000.