By Kent Darr


Des Moines-based Loffredo Gardens Inc., which has been distributing fruits and vegetables since 1892, says a competitor tapped the fertile soil of a password-protected website where customers place orders.


Greenberg Fruit Co. of Omaha illegally obtained pricing information by obtaining customer passwords from the Loffredo website, according to a lawsuit filed July 5 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa in Des Moines.


Loffredo, a fourth-generation family business, said it sells fruits and vegetables at various price points, depending on each customer's market conditions. Pricing is different for each customer, according to a court document.


The lawsuit claims that Greenberg obtained passwords and pricing information in an effort to gain an unfair advantage in competing for customers.


Greenberg is accused of computer fraud, unfair competition and misappropriation of trade secrets as part of ongoing criminal conduct that occurred between January and May.


The Omaha company was founded in 1936 and distributes produce in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa, according to its website.


Loffredo once grew its own produce on several hundred acres on the South Side of Des Moines. It has transitioned into a distribution company with locations in Carter Lake, Kansas City, Mo., Rock Island, Ill., and Madison, Wis.