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Supermarket mogul convicted in huge fraud case [UPDATED]

April 20, 2009 |  1:04 pm

A jury today convicted supermarket mogul George Torres on federal racketeering charges.

During a three-week trial, prosecutors alleged that Torres was a ruthless entrepreneur who made millions in the grocery business by hiring illegal workers, failing to pay taxes, bribing a public official and arranging to have people killed when they crossed him.

Torres, wearing a dark suit, showed no emotion as the verdict was read. His relatives wept outside the courtroom. Defense attorneys had disputed the allegations, saying Torres was a hard-working businessman who was targeted by an overzealous Los Angeles Police Department detective and lying informants who were enticed with promises of cash and early release from prison in exchange for their testimony.

The most sensational allegations against Torres were that he orchestrated the slayings of two men. The jury found Torres guilty of one of those slayings. Prosecutors charged Torres with racketeering under the theory that he ran a "shadow organization" to promote the success of his supermarket chain.

The allegations relied heavily on the testimony of two witnesses, Raul Del Real and Derrick Smith. Both men were associates of Torres, and both are serving lengthy prison sentences for distributing cocaine.

-- Scott Glover

Updated at 3:05 p.m.:Torres owns the Numero Uno grocery chain, which has stores in some of Los Angeles County's poorest areas.

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