Now comes the case out of the Central Valley of California that has shaken the reputation of the FBI and federal prosecutors.
In an undercover operation started in 2006, the feds targeted the so-called "Tomato King," Frederick Scott Salyer. Salyer is the heir to one of the largest agribusinesses in California.
The feds filed 20 charges of mail and wire fraud last February. But yesterday, his defense team struck back hard.
The Salinas Californian reports:
The defense motion is potentially the most damaging counterattack in one of the biggest prosecutions ever against the nation's food industry. Legal experts say case law is clear that the government cannot encourage an informant to steal documents it can legally get for it-self, nor can it acquiesce in such conduct by knowingly accepting the documents. "By the time Manuel's efforts were complete, he had conducted more than 40 illegal searches over a period of 18 months with the complicity and participation of [FBI Special] Agent [Paul] Artley, viewed many thousands of documents and had surreptitiously taken and delivered to the FBI well over a thousand private documents, computer printouts, e-mails, tomato paste samples and other proprietary information," Segal wrote. Manuel became an informant in August 2006 after federal agents searched his home and, in return for his help, the government allowed him to defer a guilty plea to an unrelated crime, work off his prison time and continue receiving his $200,000 salary from Sal-yer, said Segal. The defense accuses Artley of directing or encouraging Manuel to take evidence against Salyer without a search warrant.