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    Guilty Plea from Ralphs

    LOS ANGELES -- As expected, Ralphs pleaded guilty yesterday Wednesday to charges it illegally hired locked-out workers during the infamous labor strife that pummeled chains in southern California more than two years ago.

    LOS ANGELES -- As expected, Ralphs pleaded guilty yesterday Wednesday to charges it illegally hired locked-out workers during the infamous labor strife that pummeled chains in southern California more than two years ago.


    The Kroger Co.-owned chain pleaded guilty in Los Angeles federal court to five counts, including conspiracy, concealment of facts from an employee benefit plan and identity fraud, according to a report by Reuters.


    Ralphs had said in an SEC filing last month that it intended to plead guilty to the charges. Ralphs said in late June it had reached a settlement with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Central District of California under which it would pay $70 million to settle the charges.


    The settlement must still be approved by U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson, who will hold a hearing in September to give an indication on whether he will accept the deal.

    Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 16.

    In December 2005, a federal grand jury indicted Ralphs Grocery Co. on charges it illegally rehired close to 1,000 workers and let them work under false names and Social Security numbers during a bitter 2003-2004 labor dispute.


    The strike and lockout hit about 900 stores owned by major chains Kroger, Albertsons, and Safeway in southern California. It was the longest work stoppage in the history of the U.S. grocery industry.


    According to the indictment, Ralphs engaged in illegal conduct during its lockout of about 19,000 employees at its southern California stores between October 2003 and March 2004. The 53-count indictment included charges of obstruction of justice and money laundering.


    If the court approves the plea agreement, all remaining counts will be dismissed.

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