After FBI and IRS agents raided his Turlock home in August 2006 looking for evidence that he embezzled money from a former employer, Anthony Ray Manuel decided to steer them in another direction and gamble that the move would eventually earn him leniency.
He was then working at SK Foods L.P., one of California’s major processors and wholesalers of food products – primarily tomato paste – and owned by Frederick Scott Salyer, grandson of a storied San Joaquin Valley land baron.
Manuel suggested that the exploits at SK Foods made his theft of $975,000 from Woodland’s Morningstar Packing Co. look like jaywalking.
The assertion got the agents’ attention, and the information Manuel provided in the ensuing months touched off an investigation that led to an astounding series of successful prosecutions and one of the biggest scandals ever to hit the food industry.
The strategy paid big dividends for Manuel on Tuesday.
He was sentenced to two years of probation on his guilty plea more than five years ago to wire fraud and preparing a false federal income tax return for 2003.
Prosecutor Matt Segal convinced a reluctant U.S. District Judge Lawrence K. Karlton that the extent of Manuel’s assistance should spare the 61-year-old a prison term.