When one hears words such as “racketeering,” “money laundering,” and “bid rigging,” it isn’t generally the case that tomatoes come to mind. But hear ye, hear ye everybody, the well-known fruit of the nightshade plant has been the cause of much shady goings on in California. And of course, one might argue that California is known for numerous shady dealings anyway but this one – takes the spaghetti sauce. Who knew that the second most popular vegetable in America was the tomato? After potato. And who knew that on the way to being crushed, roasted, pureed and mashed into tomato paste, the little red fruits, originally cultivated in Mexico would be the cause of much criminal activity.
Right now legal teams have been assembled to request bail for Frederick Scott Salyer who has been jailed on tomato racketeering charges. Rather than merely sell tomatoes to those well-known ketchup and soup companies, Salyer and others are thought to have been strong arming buyers. From bribes to “gifts” of health insurance and retirement packages and even $100 bills, all were exchanged for exclusive tomato contracts. One of the operatives is reported to have lived on Shadyside Street. Some things you just can’t make up. Worse than hiding money in offshore banks, Salyer is said to have sold rotten tomatoes which were then cooked and turned into – well, all those jars and cans in your pantry. Ouch.
Salyer, whose grandfather was said to be a respected mule skinner, comes from a notable California farming family. But some suggest his quest to be King of the Tomato World led him down the dark and criminal path. Now investigators are busy combing computer hard drives and probably flash drives and other digital media for evidence of criminal tomato activity. In the quest for tomato justice, no soup can will go unturned. Who knew the humble tomato would yield such scandal?
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