New charges filed in Agriprocessors case

by Bryan Salvage
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IOWA CITY, IOWA — Wire and mail fraud charges have been added by federal prosecutors to the allegations against Sholom Rubashkin, the former manager of Agriprocessors Inc. kosher slaughterhouse in Postville, Iowa, according to The Associated Press. The new, 163-count indictment was filed late last week against Agriprocessors Inc.

The previous indictment adds 14 wire fraud charges and nine counts of mail fraud.

Guy Cook, Mr. Rubashkin’s attorney, said July 17 he would ask U.S. District Court Judge Linda Reade to push back the current trial date of Sept. 15.

"Rubashkin will plead not guilty whether it's one count or 163 counts," Mr. Cook said.

Prosecutors allege the fraud began before an immigration raid at the plant in May 2008 in which 389 people were detained, though the raid worsened the company's financial problems and was a factor in its later bankruptcy filing. Each of the additional 23 charges carries a maximum penalty of $1 million and 30 years in prison.

The July 16 filing was the government's seventh superceding indictment since charges were initially filed against Mr. Rubashkin, the company and three other former top managers at the plant.

Prosecutors allege Mr. Rubashkin and the company, beginning in September 2007, requested advances of a $35 million bank loan by fax to the plant's largest lender, St. Louis-based First Bank Business Capital. Mr. Rubashkin and the company made requests monthly until October 2008, according to the indictment.

The indictment further stated the requests were based on inflated monthly financial reports sent to the bank. The government also alleged that Agriprocessors mailed false financial reports to the bank.

Judge Reade split the indictment into two trials in June, the first on financial charges and the second on immigration charges. Mr. Cook had asked the court to hold the immigration trial first because he said the trial on financial charges could include testimony from Mr. Rubashkin that could be held against him in the immigration trial.

Last Friday morning, Judge Reade denied that motion and said the trial on financial charges will be held first, adding that a second hearing on the matter is "not appropriate."

In other news, the Des Moines Register relayed on July 18 Hershey Friedman, a Montreal businessman poised to buy the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant, vowed the day before that former owners of Agriprocessors’ business would have no roles in ownership or upper management. He added, however, several members of the Rubashkin family might continue to work at the Postville plant, but they would not be investors or have any role in charting the plant's direction.

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