(Aug. 19, 2:43 p.m.) Scott Salyer, president and chief executive officer of SK Foods, Monterey, Calif., a food processor and the parent company of Salyer American Fresh Foods Inc., is accused of allegedly encouraging New Jersey-based broker Randall Rahal to offer bribes to its customers’ buyers over a four-year period.

Federal Bureau of Investigation special agent Paul Artley filed an affidavit Aug. 14 in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, Calif., supporting the government’s April 16 seizure of nearly $600,000 held in the name of Rahal’s company, Intramark USA Inc., from two of his accounts in the Vineland, N.J. branch of Sun National Bank. The document alleges he used the accounts to bribe buyers from a number of food companies.

Artley stated in the affidavit that the FBI, along with the Internal Revenue Service, the Office of Inspector General, the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division has been investigating Rahal and SK Foods for the last four years. The investigation covered a number of criminal offenses, including mail and wire fraud, racketeering involving bribery, bank fraud, misbranded and adulterated foods, and anti-trust violations.

According to Artley, between January 2004 and April 2008, Rahal paid bribes on behalf of SK Foods to its customers’ buyers to ensure these companies purchased tomato products from SK Foods. Then Artley said the money customers paid to SK Foods were commingled with other funds held by SK Foods and used to make payments to Intramark’s Sun National Money Market Account in a conspiracy to commit fraud, as well as money laundering transactions.

The investigation involved wiretaps of Rahal’s mobile and business phones, interviews with current and former employees of SK Foods and stakeouts where agents observed him paying money to the purchasers.

An unnamed SK Foods employee, referred to as witness No. 1, told investigators that the company paid bribes in order to secure market share and get inside information from the customers. Witness No. 1 said Rahal oversaw SK Foods’ accounts for Kraft, Heinz, McCormick, Frito-Lay, Safeway, ConAgra, Pacific Coast Producers, McCains, Barilla, Better Baked Foods, Clement Pappas and others. The witness said Scott Salyer was present when Rahal disclosed the bribes had been paid through Intramark.

The witness said the bribes were used to obtain bid prices submitted by SK Foods’ competitors to SK Foods’ customers, giving Rahal valuable inside information he used to secure the bids. Witness No. 1 and other current and former employees identified purchasing agents who they believed took bribes at Agusa, Lemoore, Calif.; B&G Foods, Parsippany, N.J.; ConAgra, Oakdale, Calif.; Frito-Lay, Plano, Texas; Kraft, Chicago, Ill.; and Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif.

In one intercepted cell phone call between Rahal and Salyer, according to the affidavit, they discussed Agusa and how the buyer was rejecting Chinese tomato paste and that SK Foods might be able to get a bigger share of the business if Agusa started rejecting everyone else’s paste. According to the affidavit, Rahal said, “You never know what can happen, a little bit of money in the right place can do.”

Based on these and other wiretaps, agents followed Rahal and witnessed him handing over a Bank of America envelope to the Agusa buyer, after which Rahal asked the buyer for a list of his sales customers and the contract prices. In April 2008, the buyer admitted to federal agents to having received cash payments from Rahal relating to the purchase of product by Agusa from SK Foods.

In a call intercepted March 12, between Rahal and an SK Foods employee known as M.P., Rahal said that P.C. (a ConAgra buyer who Rahal had paid 1-cent per pound for 10 million pounds of tomato paste in 2006) was trying to protect him, but said things were getting out of hand and that, “you gotta be careful what you’re shipping us.” Rahal said, “We pack garbage for them anyway and they always take it, but we’ve hit new lows.”

According to the affidavit, Rahal paid his contact at Frito-Lay $81,000 from January 2004 through December 2007. More than $157,000 was paid to the contact at Kraft during the same timeframe.

Investigators continued to intercept calls between Rahal and Salyer discussing “reeling in” purchasing managers for at least two large food companies by providing one a retirement income and a future job for a second buyer at SK Foods. Rahal called the second buyer a crook and said he wanted to keep the buyer where he was. According to the affidavit, Salyer responded, “Crooks are handy on the inside.” Rahal then said, “As long as they’re our crooks.”

Agent Artley said that based on bank records between Dec. 1, 2003 and Dec. 31. 2007, more than $250,000 in checks were issued from Intramark payable to four purchasers, according to the affidavit. He said in the affidavit that he believed 75% of all deposits, amounting to several million dollars, came from SK Foods, including $600,000 to be used for bribes and kickbacks.

Calls to SK Foods were not returned.