GRANT SCHULTE – Des Moines Register
Sholom Rubashkin’s lawyers will start calling witnesses as early as today to counter allegations that the former Iowa slaughterhouse manager cheated a bank, laundered money and failed to pay livestock providers on time.
The list of possible defense witnesses includes the plant’s former bankruptcy trustee, Joe Sarachek; Postville schools guidance counselor Ron Wahl, who worked extensively with the town’s immigrant population; and Aaron Rubashkin, the family patriarch who founded Agriprocessors, Inc. to produce kosher meat.
Sholom Rubashkin also will take the stand on his own behalf, defense lawyer Guy Cook said during opening statements. So might his wife, Leah, and at least one of their 10 children.
His brother, Heshy Rubashkin, who helped run the slaughterhouse, is another likely possibility because lawyers have mentioned his name several times in court. All were named as potential witnesses during jury selection.
This morning marks week four of Rubashkin’s financial fraud trial in Sioux Falls, S.D. Federal prosecutors are expected to conclude their case today after 10 days, 47 witnesses and scores of internal company records.
Rubashkin, as they tell it, was the mastermind behind a plan to illegally pump money into the plant and pay under-the-table salaries to high-level managers.
Rubashkin allegedly used a school and a grocery store under his control to launder money, and did not pay his livestock providers in the time required by law.
Rubashkin faces a maximum 1,280-year federal prison sentence if convicted of all 91 financial-fraud charges. Prosecutors have accused the 50-year-old of bank, mail and wire fraud, money laundering and failing to pay livestock providers in the time required by law. He has pleaded not guilty.
Agriprocessors Inc. in northeast Iowa was the site of a May 2008 immigration raid that caught 389 illegal workers. The raid, one of the largest in American history, forced the plant into bankruptcy six months later. It was then, prosecutors allege, that the court-appointed trustee discovered a plot to defraud the plant’s lender.
Rubashkin will also face 72 federal immigration-related charges in a second trial now scheduled to begin on Dec. 1. He has pleaded not guilty.
He also stands accused of state-level child labor violations for his alleged role in the hiring or underage workers.