Kroger exec among 3 acquitted in labor fraud case

Los Angeles A former Kroger Co. executive and two former Ralphs managers were found not guilty late Monday of federal labor fraud charges linked to the 2003-2004 supermarket strike and lockout.

Scott Drew, a former executive with Cincinnati-based Kroger, former Ralphs manager Karen Montoya and former Ralphs VP Patrick McGowan were acquitted of all charges by a Los Angeles jury.

The three were named in an indictment accusing them of conspiring to rehire hundreds of locked-out workers using fake Social Security numbers and names during the strike. Two others named in the indictment have pleaded guilty.

The four-month-long supermarket strike and lockout began in October 2003. Union leaders ordered a strike against Vons and Pavilions stores. Albertsons and Ralphs responded by locking out their employees.

Prosecutors said the defendants encouraged the hiring of locked-out workers and falsified documents as part of the conspiracy.

In 2006, Ralphs pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy, concealment of facts from an employee benefit plan, and identity fraud, and agreed to pay $70 million to settle the charges and cooperate with prosecutors.

Drew and his co-defendants were fired when the charges were revealed.

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