Trial of kosher meat plan­towneropens

The Jewish Chronicle - - World News - BY PAUL BERGER NEW YORK

THE FOR­MER CEO of Amer­ica’s largest kosher slaugh­ter­house and meat­pack­ing plant went on trial this week.

Shlomo Rubashkin, for­merly of Agripro­ces­sors, Inc, faces al­most 100 charges re­lat­ing to fal­si­fy­ing fi­nan­cial pa­pers in or­der to se­cure ad­vances on a $35 mil­lion loan.

In a sep­a­rate trial, due to be­gin af­ter the close of this one, he faces 72 charges re­lat­ing to im­mi­gra­tion vi­o­la­tions.

If con­victed, Mr Rubashkin, 49, could spend the rest of his life in prison.

Agripro­ces­sors, in Postville, Iowa, was the scene last May of the largest im­mi­gra­tion raid in Amer­i­can his­tory.

More than 300 work­ers, mostly Gu­atemalan and Mex­i­can, were rounded up by the US Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity’s im­mi­gra­tion arm and put into de­ten­tion camps.

Many ac­cused the plant of pay­ing low wages and of un­savoury work­ing con­di­tions be­fore they were de­ported.

Sh­muly Yan­klowitz, of the Or­tho­dox so­cial jus­tice group Uri L’Tzedek, said that the al­le­ga­tions sure to come out dur­ing the course of the two tri­als would be­come “in­fa­mous as a low point for cer­tain seg­ments of the Jewish com­mu­nity”.

Agripro­ces­sors went bank­rupt fol­low­ing the raid.

It was res­cued by Her­shey Fried­man, a Cana­dian whose com­pany, SHF in­dus­tries, bought the firm for $8.5 mil­lion. Mr Fried­man has vowed to hire lo­cal res­i­dents and to im­prove work­ing con­di­tions.

The scale of the raid sparked a blaze of such neg­a­tive me­dia pub­lic­ity that Mr Rubashkin’s trial had to be moved out of Iowa to Sioux Falls, in neigh­bour­ing South Dakota.

Rabbi Pin­chas Lip­s­chitz, ed­i­tor and pub­lisher of the largest Charedi weekly news­pa­per in the United States, Yated Nee­man, said Mr Rubashkin had been scape­goated.

“I ex­pect him to be vin­di­cated,” he said.

Vil­i­fied in the press, Mr Rubashkin re­mains a hero to some in the Jewish com­mu­nity, par­tic­u­larly in Postville, where he sup­ported Jewish char­i­ties and schools.

Scores of Mr Rubashkin’s ChabadLubav­itch sup­port­ers at­tended the court­house for the first day of the trial on Tues­day clutch­ing psalm books and pray­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Des Moines Reg­is­ter. Some had trav­elled on a bus from New York, about 1,200 miles away.

Mr Rubashkin sat in the court­room with his wife and 10 chil­dren be­hind him, said the pa­per.

Over the com­ing weeks, he will face charges of bank fraud, mail fraud and wire fraud.

A num­ber of Agripro­ces­sors em­ploy­ees have al­ready pleaded guilty.

Last month, the firm’s for­mer chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer, Mitchel Meltzer, ad­mit­ted mak­ing false state­ments to a bank so that the firm could se­cure the $35 mil­lion loan. He faces a pos­si­ble five-year prison term.

One month ear­lier, Yom­tov Ben­sas­son, an­other for­mer fi­nan­cial em­ployee, pleaded guilty to the same charges.

The trial con­tin­ues and is ex­pected to last up to six weeks.

Mr Rubashkin de­nies all charges. His lawyer did not re­turn calls and emails for com­ment.

Shlomo Rubashkin and his wife en­ter court. He faces al­most 170 charges

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