Judge: Former Iowa kosher slaughterhouse manager will get 27 years in prison, pay $31M

By Michael J. Crumb, AP
Monday, June 21, 2010

Judge: Slaughterhouse manager will get 27 years

DES MOINES, Iowa — A former vice president of an Iowa kosher slaughterhouse will be sentenced to 27 years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $27 million restitution for his conviction on financial fraud charges, a federal judge said Monday.

Chief U.S. District Court Judge Linda R. Reade released the memorandum outlining the sentence she will hand down for Sholom Rubashkin during the former Agriprocessor’s Inc. manager on Tuesday in federal court in Cedar Rapids.

A jury found Rubashkin guilty last fall on 86 federal financial fraud charges. Prosecutors had sought a 25-year sentence. Rubashkin’s attorney, Guy Cook, said the sentence is longer than necessary and plans to appeal.

“It’s unfair and excessive and is essentially a life sentence for a 51-year-old man,” Cook said.

Cook said he spoke to Rubashkin Monday and he described Rubashkin as calm and focused.

Rubashkin oversaw the plant in Postville, Iowa, that gained attention in 2008 after a large-scale immigration raid in which authorities detained 389 illegal immigrants. The plant filed for bankruptcy months after the raid and was later sold. Prosecutors claim evidence of the massive fraud scheme was uncovered during an investigation by a court-appointed trustee.

Prosecutors later alleged that Rubashkin intentionally deceived the company’s lender and that he directed employees to create fake invoices in order to show St. Louis-based First Bank that the plant had more money flowing in that it really did. But Cook tried to portray Rubashkin as a bumbling businessman who was in over his head, and who never read the loan agreement with First Bank.

Rubashkin faced 72 charges for allegedly allowing illegal immigrants to work at the plant but Reade dismissed those charges and a jury acquitted Rubashkin of state child labor charges earlier this month.

Bob Teig, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined comment until after the sentence is imposed.

Cook told reporters during a conference call with reporters that the sentence is higher than other white-collar crimes, including the 24-year sentence of former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling, who was convicted in 2006 on 19 counts of conspiracy, securities fraud, insider trading and lying to auditors following the energy company’s collapse in 2001 that cost billions of dollars. However, an appeals court has ruled he should be re-sentenced.

Rubashhkin’s wife, Leah, told reporters during the call that that the family is “very disappointed” in the sentence.

“We feel he’s been targeted,” she said. “All we wanted was for him to be treated fairly and obviously that hasn’t been the case. He’s disappointed … and the fight will not be over until he’s treated like everybody else in this country.”

Cook said he plans to ask the court to place Rubashkin at the federal prison in Otisville, N.Y. or at Fort Dix, N.J., because both are equipped to handle Orthodox Jewish customs and practices and are closer to Rubashkin’s family in the New York area.

(This version CORRECTS restitution amount to $27 million, not $31 million.)

will not be displayed