Kosher Plant Manager Facing Life On Fraud Charges

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A former manger of a kosher Iowa slaughterhouse who was convicted of financial fraud admitted he committed the fraud and that he knew illegal immigrants worked at the plant, a psychiatrist said during the executive's sentencing hearing.

The psychiatrist was hired by the defense for former Agriprocessors Inc. manager Sholom Rubashkin, who faces a possible life sentence after being convicted on 86 counts of financial fraud in November. The Postville plant he managed was the site of a massive immigration raid in May 2008.

Prosecutors originally leveled 163 immigration and financial fraud counts against Rubashkin, but they dropped the immigration charges after Rubashkin was convicted on the fraud charges. Still, the allegations have been an issue at the sentencing hearing.

Rubashkin acknowledged during his trial that he made mistakes as a manager, but he testified that he never intentionally violated immigration or federal fraud laws.

"Did he admit to the crimes?" Assistant U.S. Attorney C.J. Williams asked Dr. Susan Fiester of Bethesda, Md., under cross-examination on Wednesday.

"Yes, essentially," Fiester replied.

Williams asked Fiester if Rubashkin's statement to her was "inconsistent with trial testimony," to which Fiester said it was. But Fiester wouldn't say whether that meant Rubashkin lied under oath.

"I didn't ask him that," Fiester said.

The sentencing hearing was scheduled to resume Thursday morning. U.S. District Court Judge Linda R. Reade has said she will render a judgment "three to four weeks" after the hearing.

Rubashkin was convicted of creating phony invoices to show St. Louis-based First Bank Business Capital that the slaughterhouse had more money flowing in than it did.

The defense tried to show Wednesday that the fraud really wasn't worth $35 million, as prosecutors contend.

Defense attorney F. Montgomery Brown said an original 1999 loan for $20 million was "clear and pristine" and that Rubashkin's bank fraud didn't start until 2007.

Also, several former business partners and family members testified that Rubashkin wasn't ultimately responsible for mistakes made at the plant.

Former Agriprocessors poultry manager Joseph Gourarie said Rubashkin wanted to fire about 200 illegal immigrants at the plant months before the raid but couldn't get permission from his father, former Agriprocessors owner Aaron Rubashkin.

"It was at times difficult to know who was ultimately in charge," Gourarie said. "I'm not sure he could have (fired the workers) with unilateral authority."

A rabbi from Bel Harbor, Fla., testified about how Rubashkin's religious beliefs would affect his prison stay. As a member of the Lubavitch branch of Orthodox Judaism, Rubashkin would require a kosher diet and would wear a head covering that would make him stand out, Rabbi Sholom Lipskar said.

Lipskar also said recreation would be more limited than it is for the average prisoner because Lubavitchers generally don't watch television or work out.

"It's a much more intense experience," Lipskar said. "To a Hasidic Jew, being in prison for a year could be much more severe than for another person."

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.


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