Federal prosecutors charged seven people in connection with an $800-million accounting scandal at U.S. Foodservice, the second largest U.S. distributor of food and food products to restaurants and cafeterias.

The criminal charges were brought against workers, some of them independent food brokers, who worked for company suppliers and allegedly helped hide the fraud in order to maintain lucrative business relationships.

In January, nine other vendors were indicted in a case against Royal Ahold NV, one of the world's largest retailers and the parent company of U.S. Foodservice Inc. Ahold announced the inflated earnings in early 2003 and eventually settled with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2004 without paying a fine.

The seven vendors allegedly signed audit confirmation letters that overstated amounts either earned by or owed to U.S. Foodservice, according to charges filed by the U.S. attorney in federal district court in New York. According to prosecutors, the changes allowed U.S. Foodservice to overstate its earnings and assets from 2000 to 2003.

Prosecutors said that many of the charged conspired with a former U.S. Foodservice chief marketing officer, Mark P. Kaiser, to falsely verify millions in promotional allowances owed to U.S. Foodservice by two suppliers. Kaiser is one of four former executives who was criminally charged last year. He and former chief financial officer Michael Resnick are scheduled to go to trial next year on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud and making false SEC filings.

Two former vice presidents, Timothy J. Lee and William F. Carter, pleaded guilty in July 2004 to charges of participating in a conspiracy to commit securities fraud.

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