Robert Watson of White Plains, N.Y., entered his plea Tuesday to accepting $158,000 from a California-based tomato processor. Watson, 59, was a Kraft senior purchasing manager. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said James Wahl Jr., 58, a former Frito-Lay purchaser from Dallas, also has agreed to plead guilty to accepting $160,000.
According to Associated Press reports, the charges say both Watson and Wahl helped Randall Lee Rahal, a sales broker and director at SK Foods of Lemoore, California, charge their companies inflated prices. SK Foods is a tomato grower and processor of products such as tomato paste and diced tomatoes.
Prosecutors reportedly said Watson made sure Kraft bought about 230 million pounds 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, each of which carries a maximum 20 year prison term. Sentencing is set for May 5.
Wahl is to plead guilty "in the near future," prosecutors said. The former senior group manager for ingredients at Frito-Lay was charged Monday with two counts of honest services mail fraud. The charges say he accepted the bribes between 1998 and 2008 in exchange for giving SK Foods information that let it charge Frito-Lay inflated prices.
Rahal, 61, of Ramsey, N.J., the SK sales broker, pleaded guilty Dec. 16 to racketeering, price fixing, bid rigging and contract conspiracies. SK Foods has denied wrongdoing. Prosecutors say he negotiated contracts between SK Foods and food product manufacturers, distributors and retail stores throughout the United States.