Former Kraft exec sentenced for tomato scam

by Staff
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SACRAMENTO, CALIF. — Robert L. Watson, a former Kraft senior purchasing manager who admitted to accepting $158,000 from SK Foods, a Lenmore, Calif.-based tomato processor, was sentenced to two years and three months in prison to be followed by two years of supervised release. In addition, he was ordered to pay $1,858,000 in restitution to his former employer, Kraft Foods.

"By accepting bribes in making his purchasing decisions, Robert Watson defrauded both his employer and ultimately the consumer," said U.S. attorney Lawrence G. Brown.

In late January, Mr. Watson admitted helping Randall Lee Rahal, a sales broker and director at SK Foods, to charge their respective companies with inflated prices. For his part, Mr. Watson was charged with making sure Kraft purchased approximately 203 million lbs of processed tomato products from SK Foods at higher prices between 2004 and 2008. He pleaded guilty to two counts of honest services mail fraud.

Mr. Watson is the first defendant to be sentenced as a result of the ongoing federal investigation into fraud and corruption in the tomato products industry. James Wahl Jr. and Robert Turner, former purchasing executives with Frito-Lay, Inc., a subsidiary of PepsiCo, Inc., and B&G Foods Inc., respectively, also have admitted to receiving illicit payments from Mr. Rahal and are awaiting sentencing.

Mr. Rahal pleaded guilty Dec. 16 to racketeering, price fixing, bid rigging and contract conspiracies.

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