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Operation Rotten Tomato continues: Ex-SK Foods executive scheduled for court hearing in Sacramento

February 25, 2010 |  3:20 pm

Salyer While former SK Foods Chief Executive Frederick Scott Salyer is scheduled to make his initial court appearance in Sacramento federal court on Friday, the battle over whether the indicted tomato executive should be granted bail is heating up.

One of the key issues is whether Salyer, 54, is a flight risk.

Salyer was arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Feb. 4, after he had flown in from Switzerland. A grand jury later indicted him on racketeering and six other counts of corruption for allegedly directing a decade-long scheme to quash competition and sell tomato products at inflated prices -- a practice that is said to have led to consumers paying more at the grocery store. The investigation was dubbed by the FBI as “Operation Rotten Tomato.”

Federal prosecutors have alleged that the 54-year-old agribusiness executive had been living in Europe in recent months and had been trying to make arrangements to flee extradition. In court filings and at an earlier court hearing, they accused Salyer of funneling at least $10 million into banks overseas, and telling a witness in the case to sell his personal belongings; to wire about $40,000 to a London-based company that finds people homes and jobs in the European Union; and to put his $7-million home in Pebble Beach up for sale.

Malcolm Segal, Salyer’s attorney, filed a lengthy motion Wednesday that denied the federal government's allegations and outlined why his client has never been a flight risk -- not now, not ever.

Instead, the prosecutors’ allegations are based on information supplied by a former employee who “had taken advantage of the defendant’s absence from the country on business to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in furnishings and art from a family home.”

The defense also submitted dozens of letters from family and friends in support of Salyer, including one from his eldest daughter, Stefanie Ann Gallegly.

“I love my father and I sincerely hope there is no way he would run away never intending to see me or my sister again,” she wrote. “I think it would be emotionally difficult for him to try to flee the country or stay in Europe when we would be here in the United States with his new grandchild.”

Click here to read the pretrial motion and find out more.

-- P.J. Huffstutter

Photo: California state Sen. Abel Maldonado, left, is congratulated by Frederick Scott Salyer, middle, and Peter Blackstock at a political event. Credit: David Royal / Monterey County Herald

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