A former Safeway Inc. employee was sentenced Tuesday to spend seven months in home detention in connection with the federal investigation of defunct California tomato processor SK Foods.
Michael Chavez, 52, of Fremont had pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud and accepting $5,000 in bribes from an official of SK Foods, which was based in Monterey.
Chavez was a corporate purchasing manager for the Pleasanton, Calif., grocery chain from 2000 to 2007, and responsible for negotiating deals for processed tomato products, court documents said. At least one of those deals, for 500,000 pounds of processed tomatoes, came as a result of a $1,000 cash bribe from SK Foods.
In addition to the home detention, U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton in Sacramento sentenced Chavez to three years of probation and a $10,000 fine.
Neither Chavez nor Safeway officials could be reached for comment Tuesday.
Eleven people have been charged in connection with what prosecutors have described as a decade-long scheme by SK Foods and former Chief Executive Frederick Scott Salyer to illegally corner the market for processed tomato products.
Chavez is the second person to be sentenced in the case. Robert Watson of White Plains, N.Y., is serving a 27-month prison sentence in Brooklyn, N.Y., and was ordered to pay $1.85 million in restitution.
Watson, a former purchasing manager for Kraft Foods, pleaded guilty to mail fraud and accepting $158,000 in bribes from an SK Foods official.
Watson declined a request for an interview.
The status of Salyer's release from Sacramento County Jail remained uncertain Tuesday.
Last week, Karlton set bail at $300,000 in cash and $6 million in a property bond for Salyer, who is charged with multiple corruption counts.
The cash portion of the bail already has been submitted, and Salyer planned to put up his home in Pebble Beach, reportedly valued at $6 million to $7 million, as collateral for the bail bond. But prosecutors argued that it shouldn't be used as collateral because his former wife has filed a legal claim on the property.
The home is owned by Salyer's daughters' trust, and the trustee had agreed to let it be used as security for the bond.
Karlton agreed to further weigh the issue at a hearing Tuesday after defense attorney Malcolm Segal offered to find friends of Salyer willing to put up additional property to secure the bond.
But he later issued an order refusing to let Salyer use his Pebble Beach home as collateral.
In the order filed Tuesday afternoon, Karlton wrote that the defense had failed to convince the court that the legal claim "will not sufficiently diminish the value of the Ronda Road property. Accordingly, the court will not accept the Pebble Beach home as sufficient support for the bond."
The ruling, however, hinged on the defense team being able to access Salyer in the Sacramento County Jail, according to the order.