Skip to comments.Does a kosher butcher’s fraud mandate a life sentence?
Posted on 04/21/2010 5:40:54 AM PDT by SJackson
Yes, we Jews unfortunately have our criminals. Yes, we Orthodox Jews unfortunately have our felons. Were human, too.
At middle age I have come to accept my limitations. Although I like to have an opinion on almost everything, I am conscious of the fact that I am not a legal scholar and do not understand all the complexities of the criminal case against Sholom Rubashkin, former CEO of Americas largest kosher meat plant, Agriprocessors of Postville, Iowa.
But I am not a stupid man either. And I and a heck of a lot of other fairly intelligent and educated people are scratching our heads as to why government prosecutors are requesting that Rubashkin, who has 10 children, including an autistic son, and a reputation for enormous philanthropy, be given a life sentence in prison.
Life behind bars the very words are ominous. Isnt that reserved for societys most heinous offenders? A life sentence has one conjuring images of rapists and murderers, international drug cartel kingpins and white-collar criminals guilty of gargantuan fraud, like Bernard Madoff.
What did Rubashkin do? After an INS raid on the plant that found hundreds of illegal immigrants, the company was pushed to the brink of bankruptcy and Rubashkin, who had already been arrested for employing illegals, was subsequently found guilty of defrauding a bank and producing false invoices to keep the business going. There is no insinuation that he did any of this for personal profit or gain. Unlike Madoff, he had no Hamptons estate, no fancy yacht and no Manhattan penthouse. By all accounts he and his family lived in incredibly modest circumstances.
Obviously, the Rubashkin story has been an enormous embarrassment to the American Jewish community in general and Orthodoxy in particular. The largest kosher meat plant in the country employing hundreds of illegal immigrants? Engaging in bank fraud to remain a going concern? Falsifying invoices and misleading lenders? These are serious charges that go against both terrestrial and celestial law and constitute actions that neither man nor God can condone. The expected flight of Jewish leaders and spokespeople from Rubashkins side ensued, whatever the injustice of his proposed sentence. We Jews are accustomed to run from scandal like the plague.
SO LETS remove the smoke from this unsavory story and focus on truth.
Yes, we Jews unfortunately have our criminals. Yes, we Orthodox Jews unfortunately have our felons. Were human, too. We have people guilty of serious wrongdoing. And we too must confess our sins, repent of our actions, are punished for our crimes and teach our children to always do better and never excuse our behavior.
Our community needs to know that no matter how important you believe it is for other Jews to eat kosher, you cannot purchase that mitzva at any price. You cannot be a good Jew if you are not an honest person. A religious obligation that comes through theft even when the intention is to simply keep a business open so you can eventually pay off your loans subverts all principles of religious morality.
Rubashkin is no hero. Whatever the nobility of his intentions, he is a poor example to religious youth. He has been found guilty of a crime and he must do the time.
But he is no monster either. Unlike Wall Street bankers, he did not bet the farm and other peoples deposits to buy himself a Ferrari. Unlike AIG executives, he did not cost the government billions in bailouts and then get a bonus. And while I, of course, understand that criminal conduct is infinitely more serious, so is prosecutorial overzealousness that borders on fanaticism.
The time that Rubashkin serves must be fair and just. This is America. Just as there is no room for toleration of criminal conduct, there is also no room for a lynch mob mentality. I realize I am not a lawyer. But I have enough sense to understand that a punishment of a few years in prison sets an unassailable example that criminal conduct is utterly inexcusable. Anything more than that for a crime of this nature gives the false impression that the American justice system is prejudicial and untrustworthy.
As for the outcry from the hassidic community that Rubashkin is being treated unfairly and that his yarmulke and beard make for a prosecutorial bulls-eye, I love America too much to believe any of it. This is the fairest, most decent country on Earth. But I do believe it possible that when an overtly religious person perpetrates a crime especially one that involves companies catering to religious needs there is a feeling on the part of many that the hypocrisy mandates an even harsher sentence.
So lets be clear.
This is not in any way analogous to other ugly religious stories dominating the news like pedophile priests. There is no suggestion that Rubashkins crimes be covered up. Less so is there any insinuation that Rubashkin be moved to another state where he can start up a new kosher meat plant. Rubashkins trustworthiness in the American Jewish community is finished.
But there is an insistence that he be treated like a human being. That it be taken into consideration that he has no prior offenses and that his company provided kosher meat to hundreds of thousands of people at affordable prices so that more Jews could observe their faith. That he and his family are legendary in the hassidic community for their charitable giving, their hospitality and their communal involvement. That Rubashkin himself devoted a substantial portion of his profits to funding a soup kitchen and supporting organizations like Kollel Chabad that feed the hungry and the poor. To disregard all these considerations when it comes to sentencing is to disregard the universal belief that the good we do is not cancelled out by our horrendous mistakes.
I know my own limitations. Perhaps Rubashkins prosecutors ought to know theirs.
If youd like to be on or off, please FR mail me.
Should note that he hasn't been sentenced to life, a sentence not typically given for a crime of this type, that's the prosecutors request.
“As for the outcry from the hassidic community that Rubashkin is being treated unfairly and that his yarmulke and beard make for a prosecutorial bulls-eye, I love America too much to believe any of it. “
Tell that to Yankel Rosenbaum, Bracha Estrin, and Anthony Graziosi.
“This is the fairest, most decent country on Earth. “
While true, unfortunately it’s not saying too much.
It’s very hard to have sympathy for the Rubashkin gang. There were many more crimes that were not prosecuted merely to save the money and time.
The prosecutor is an imbecile.
Oh, please. He broke a bunch of black-and-white laws covering finance and labor over the course of several years. Throw the goniff (yiddish for thief) in the slammer, where he belongs. He should have thought about his 10 kids before becoming a crook.
yes. You cannot poison Jews with intent and violate their cultural and religious objectives.
Consistancy, and justice, requires similar sentences for similar crimes. There are no similar examples of life sentences for criminality of this nature. My guess he'll get somewhere between 8 and 20 years, which is what a defendent who doesn't look odd would get.
“Throw the goniff (yiddish for thief) in the slammer, where he belongs.”
Read the article. No one is saying that he should not be put in jail. But for life? If so, can we have some of that for more serious crimes?
He didn’t poison anyone, Jews or anyone else. The initial “crime”, “ “ because in the end he wasn’t charged, related to hiring illegal workers.
That may be, that's the prosecutors mistake.
Don’t rush to judgement. We haven’t even tried the Pastrami K’nish yet.
The American justice system is all about prosecutors getting headlines.
(1) A person is to be sentenced based on the conviction. Whatever other crimes he may —or may not — have committed are not supposed to be considered.
(2) I acknowledge that I haven’t researched this case thoroughly but it does seem that the requested life sentence is excessive, especially when compared to Madoff’s sentence. Heck, even CONFESSED terrorists aren’t given such stringent sentences.
(3) However, I do disagree with the author’s last paragraph, in which he tries to offset the man’s crime with the “good deeds” he supposedly did. The end does not justify the means. If he gave away all the money, to the best charity in the world, that wouldn’t negate the crime. In fact, giving away “ill gotten gains” is often linked to stealing—as a way of appeasing the criminal’s conscience.
(a)Ordinary people own or receive benefits from banks and loans. Stealing from a bank, no matter how rich the owners are, is still stealing from PEOPLE.
(b)If he had married & murdered an heiress, then gave away all “her” money, he would still be a murderer.
They were numerous and repeated. You would definitely not want to eat any product from there if you knew what they had been doing.
The illegal alien employees just brought the whole thing to a head and the fraud is what finally lit the fuse.
According to the Des Moines Register:
"According to documents recently obtained by the UFCW through Freedom of Information Act requests, over 250 Noncompliance Records (NRs) were issued to Agriprocessors by USDAs Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) between January 1, 2006 and January 24, 2007."
Who in their right mind wouldn't?..............OY!.........
And murderers sentenced to "life" generally get out before the victims' families are finished grieving.
I have known jews from Europe, Asia, and the ME who came from places where the legal system was so corrupt and antiJewish that were conditioned to just ignore laws and rules and courts.
The ‘law’ became whatever you can get away with.
Unfortunately, some of them brought this attitude with them to America.
Armed gang holds up train in Mexico, robs freight
By Gustavo Ruiz, AP Writer / Dec 27, 2008
MORELIA, Mexico A gang of about 20 men armed with assault rifles robbed a train in the western Mexican state of Michoacan and carted off some of its freight, the state prosecutors office said Saturday. The gang parked a pickup truck across the tracks on Friday, forcing the train to stop. The assailants then threatened the trains crew and opened some of the freight containers it was carrying.
A statement by the prosecutors office did not specify what the gang stole from the train, operated by Kansas City Southern, a subsidiary of the US-based railway company. But the thieves may have been after drums of pseudoephedrine, a chemical used in the illegal manufacture of methamphetamines, according to an official at the Michoacan state attorney generals office. [snip]
The Des Moines Register reported that methamphetamine (AKA crystal meth) was discovered in active production at Agriprocessors.
Back in 2004, Hasidim religious from Williamsburg, Brooklyn, and Monsey, NY, were involved in importing the party drug "ecstasy" from Israel. Some got recruitment fees for bringing in friends. An investigation resulted in indictments against seven of the alleged drug lords. Sean Erez, an Israeli who authorities believed ran the ring, absconded to Amsterdam as L/E weighed a request for extradition to the US.
ADL appeals to attorney general in Rubashkin case
By Ben Harris · December 24, 2008
NEW YORK (JTA) -- The Anti-Defamation League has asked the US attorney general to ensure that Israel's Law of Return is not used to deny bail to Jewish defendants. In a letter to then-US Attorney General Michael Mukasey who is an Orthodox Jew, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman took note of a federal magistrate judge's recent denial of bail to Sholom Rubashkin, former manager of the Agriprocessors kosher meatpacking plant.
The judge, Jon Scoles, ruled that Sholom Rubashkin posed a risk of flight and declined to release him on bail, pointing to evidence that he had a travel bag with cash and travel documents on hand at the time of his arrest. He also noted that two others accused of crimes connected to their work at Agriprocessors are believed to have fled to Israel. Scoles took note of Israel's Law of Return, which grants automatic citizenship to Jews.
On Monday, the judge denied a request to reconsider the judgment. Sholom Rubashkin's attorneys are said to be considering an appeal. The most troubling aspect here is that the government does not appear to have alleged, nor does the Detention Order conclude, that Defendant Rubashkin has any particular ties to Israel (he is alleged to have visited Israel in December 2007), Foxman wrote. Instead, the government and the Detention Order appear to conclude that simply because Defendant Sholom Rubashkin is Jewish, and because Jews may have a claim on Israeli citizenship, his religion is relevant to a bail hearing.
In their request for consideration, Rubashkin's attorneys argued at length that invoking the Law of Return was illegitimate, noting that under the government's reasoning, every American Jew would be viewed as a heightened flight risk, including Mukasey himself and two justices of the US Supreme Court. They further proposed several additional measures to ensure Rubashkin did not flee, including 24-hour security surveillance at the defendant's expense.
In denying the motion, Scoles asserted that Rubashkin's attorneys attach too much significance to the Law of Return factor in the original decision and that they had not produced any new information bearing on his risk of flight. Rubashkin was arrested in late October on charges relating to the hiring of illegal workers at the company's Postville, Iowa, packing plant.
While free on bond, Rubashkin was arrested a second time and charged with bank fraud. (Rubashkin, Agriprocessors CEO, is accused of diverting millions of dollars in customer payments that were part of First Banks collateral and instructing an employee to delete evidence of the scheme from the companys computers.
REFERENCE Agriprocessors produces Kosher meat and poultry in Iowa. It was founded by Brooklyn butcher, Aaron Rubashkin, and managed by his son, Sholom. In the affidavit filed as part of the 60-page application for a search warrant of the premises, details were revealed of the government's investigation including numerous allegations of health and safety violations, mistreating workers, and using controversial slaughter practices.
A former supervisor at the plant--identified as Source #1- told investigators that some 80% of the workforce was illegal. The source also said he believed rabbis responsible for Kosher supervision entered the United States from Canada without proper immigration documents. The rabbis are believed to be Israelis.
Sources related stories of fraudulent documents and Social Security numbers presented for employment. Several said they were aware of undocumented workers paid by supervisors in cash. The affidavit says the government has probable cause to believe that an Agriprocessors supervisor assisted workers in acquiring fake documents in exchange for a cut of the proceeds.
The Des Moines Register headlined that methamphetamine (AKA crystal meth) was discovered in active production at Agriprocessors (a substance that has been linked to Israeli suppliers).
In another case, Rubashkin apparently "sold" $2 million worth of meat to Allou Healthcare (a company controlled by the Rubashkin's Hasidim brethren) Only problem is, Allou distributes health and beauty items------and is not in the food business. Authorities might consider that Allou paying Rubashkin for a product it did not sell might be a kickback, money laundering or tax evasion scheme.
Money laundering or tax evasion might be integrated into Agriprocessor's bank fraud schemes----which included diverting millions of dollars in customer payments that were part of First Banks collateral and instructing an Agriprocessor employee to delete evidence of the scheme from the companys computers........for which Rubashkin was arrested and charged with bank fraud.
Judge Scoles ruled that Shlomo Rubashkin CEO of Agriprocessors kosher meat plant, Iowa (pocesses meats for Orthodox consumers) posed a flight risk and declined to release him on bail, pointing to evidence that he had a travel bag with cash and travel documents on hand at the time of his arrest.
Judge Scoles also noted that two others accused of crimes connected to Agriprocessors are believed to have fled to Israel. The source also said he believed rabbis responsible for kosher supervision entered the United States from Canada without proper immigration documents. The rabbis are believed to be from Israel.
Rubashkin was arrested in late October on charges relating to the hiring of illegal workers at the company's Postville, Iowa, packing plant. While free on bond, Rubashkin was arrested a second time and charged with bank fraud........accused of diverting millions of dollars in customer payments that were part of First Banks collateral and instructing an employee to delete evidence of the scheme from the companys computers.
An Israeli company has made an offer to buy the kosher meat producer Agriprocessors. The Israeli company, Soglowek Nahariya, made the offer in a filing Sunday with an Iowa bankruptcy court, the Des Moines Register reported.
Agriprocessors, once the country's largest producer of kosher meat, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in November. The company had been on a steady downward spiral since May, when federal agents descended on the company's Postville slaughterhouse and arrested more than one-third of its workforce in what was at the time the largest single-site immigration raid in American history.
Joseph Sarachek, a bankruptcy trustee who is temporarily running Agriprocessors, was encouraged by the offer from Soglowek Nahariya, a leading producer of meat, poultry and vegetarian products with five plants in Israel and three logistics centers, according to its Web site. Sarachek cautioned that it would be a few months before any sale is complete.
Rabbi Boteach is 100% correct. Heat was attracted to Agriprocessors, Rabbi Rubashkin’s company, because of the complaints of PETA and others of alleged cruelty to animals in the kosher butchering process. Later Agriprocessors was accused of employing hundreds of illegal aliens.
Ultimately, the entire legal case was based on the fact that Agriprocessors had a revolving line of credit; that each time Agriprocessors drew down on the line it had to certify that it was in compliance with the law; that the company allegedly was not in compliance with the law (primarily because of hiring illegal aliens and booking phoney accounts receivable); and that therefore this was a federal case of bank fraud because the bank’s parent company was insured by the FDIC.
Rubashkin was a senior officer of Agriprocessors acting in his corporate capacity. None of the acts was alleged to have been done by him outside of his capacity as an officer of Agriprocessors.
At the beginning of the trial Rubashkin successfully moved for the illegal alien matter to be tried separately, in a separate trial. Yet the government made that the crux of its entire case, alleging that Agriprocessors was breaking the law by hiring them, Rubashkin signed general “bring-down” certificates to its bank that that the company was not in violation of any laws, and that therefore he committed bank fraud.
Rubashkin was denied the opportunity to show that the bank was not harmed. The judge wrote in her order that proof of harm is not necessary to prove bank fraud.
Rubashkin was denied the opportunity to show that individuals in the bank were aware that Agriprocessors had fraudulently written up the receivables.
Rubashkin was denied the opportunity to show that he had not profited personally from any of Agriprocessors’ or his own actions.
The number of counts for which he was convicted rose exponentially as the prosecutors charged him multiple times for offenses stemming out of the same actions: defrauding the bank; defrauding the bank through use of the wires (because he faxed his certificates); defrauding the bank through use of the mails (because he sent them by courier); defrauding the bank because he said that the company was not in violation of the law although it was in violation of the immigration laws; defrauding the bank because he said that the company was not in violation of the law although it was in violation of a law requiring payment for cattle by the close of the next business day after receipt of the cows (during a three-month period at the end he was late with some payments, and there is no allegation in the order that these payments were never made).
While some of this was properly excluded from the trial over his guilt, I think it is highly relevant to the question of his sentence.
I believe that Agriprocessors was guilty. Agriprocessors was ruined, and liquidated in bankruptcy. If Rabbi Rubashkin knew about illegal immigrants working at the company and if he deliberately falsified compliance certificates to the bank then the bank should sue him personally (and perhaps the government should join the bank derivatively). But there is no justification in the world to sentence him to a life sentence in a federal penitentiary based on the conviction that he received in this case.
Since sentencing is to take place April 28, 2010, time is of the essence in expressing concern about the abuse of the justice system in this case.
It’s not the “Rubashkin gang”. It’s Rabbi Sholom Rubashkin individually, the father of 10, including an autistic child, who the court is being asked to sentence to jail for THE REST OF HIS LIFE. Read the analysis of the case that I just posted. This is an abuse of the justice system.
If the prosecutor tries and convicts him on those other charges, then those sentences should add to his incarceration time.
The above applies to any American, any religion, no matter the perpetrator's extra-criminal character manifestations.
OTOH, consistent application of a life sentence for hiring illegal aliens would go a long way toward shutting down the illicit job market that entices those criminal invaders to violate our borders.
Start with Rubashkin pour encourage les autres. Sweep the nation clean of offenders (including Nancy Pelosi?). Dry up the gravy train, and drive the invaders back where they came from!
An individual is threatened with being sent to jail for the rest of his life over this conviction. The hearing is scheduled for April 28, 2010. That is a huge rush.
The case was prosecuted by confessions and guilty pleas from his employees.
It would be useful to know what sentences similar circumstances have generated in the past, before judging if the prosecutors are too harsh.
He was offered a plea deal, but turned it down, choosing to go to trial, despite the mountains of evidence against him.
I have a hard time being sympathic, sorry.
Nobody is arguing that Rabbi Rubashkin was innocent. The issue is over the sentence that the prosecutors are seeking. A life sentence is outrageously disproportionate.
I don’t know what health violations you are discussing here. Agriprocessors was not charged with any such alleged violations, and as an aware consumer of kosher food I never heard of them.
Here is an article by a vegetarian “activist” about the conditions at Agriprocessors. Read and enjoy: http://www.resourcesforlife.com/docs/item2734
And what does this have to do with the prosecutor’s attempt to get the court to impose a life sentence on Sholom Rubashkin? Because you knew some Jews who ignored laws this individual should go to jail for the rest of his life based on conviction of these charges? Do you mean that all Jews from Europe, Asia and the Middle East are the same? I don’t even know that Rabbi Rubashkin was born outside of the US (he may have been; I just don’t know this).
I have no sympathy for them...that's what I'm saying.
I think the fraud and illegal alien stuff is MILD compared to what they did to the innocent public by selling them tainted food and calling it "kosher".
It's like hearing that a known meth-lab owner got a speeding ticket.
It appears he was offered a plea deal. He opted for a trial. He gambled and lost. Such is the American justice system today, with prosecutors' main objective being to clear their dockets and maximize their conviction rates.
That said, he gambled and lost. His main hope at this point is to tell the feds everything he knows about any illegal activity of anybody he knows.
You brought up the meth labs twice in your slam, boldfaced both times. I understand from other accounts that this was a false accusation that never re-emerged after the dust settled.
If it were true, it would have been prosecuted. This would have been a highly damning fact, and would have justified an extremely severe sentence as far as I am concerned.
Do you really think the prosecutors would have ignored that in their indictment?
The sale failed. I believe the company was liquidated.
Again, I don’t contest that the company was guilty and that he was an officer of the company. I do object strenuously to the prosecutors seeking a life term in jail, particularly as (a) the trial based on hiring illegal aliens was to be held separately from the trial alleging bank fraud and (b) Rubashkin was not permitted to prove that the bank was not harmed by his fraudulent compliance certificates.
It was a shock last week when the prosecutors indicated that they were going to seek a life sentence instead of a term of 20+ years.
The state (Iowa) alone fined them $182,000 in violations just in 2008 alone, and the safety violations involved workers getting "involuntary amputations" of various body parts. Worker safety was almost non-existent, so that had to go to extremes to find workers who would tolerate those conditions (illegals). They often refused to let inspectors into the plant, and would stall until they could get it "looking good".
He decided not to take a guilty plea because he believed he would be exonerated at trial. I don’t disagree with the guilty plea. I do think it is an appalling abuse of the justice system to seek a life sentence for him following conviction. I surmise that whoever advised him to fight had no idea that the prosecutors would seek such an abusive sentence for this man upon conviction.
Do you have any links to this information?
Were there more accidents/amputations in the Agriprocessors facilities than occurred in other slaughterhouses? (I’m not saying there weren’t; I don’t know, as I never saw this issue raised before).
If the facility was so unsafe, why wasn’t it shut down by the state of Iowa? Was such an action ever raised by the state?
Hmmm. I couldn’t find an article that had them calling for life...just ones giving fixed sentences up to 20-something.
You don't believe he did the things he was convicted of? You don't believe he knowingly hired illegals? You don't believe he participated in falsifying their documents?
This article is a tissue of lies as are many of the comments on this thread. There is nothing charitable about Rubashkin or his company. The man illegally robbed and abused those outside of his tribe for the material benefit of himself and others within his tribe. All the rest is obfuscation.
That’s a good point. It’s also important to note that this case involved convictions on 86 separate counts. I would think there would be a lot of prison time in a case like that — almost by necessity.
Probably not the best source...it was the first one listed of several thousand that the search turned up.
“I have a hard time being sympathic, sorry. “
No need to apologize nor is there any need for sympathy.
IMHO, as long as the punishment is more or less what was handed out for others in similar situations, I have no opinion on the matter. If, in similar situations, the perpetrator was as charitable and that was taken into account in sentencing, it should be done so here. If not, then it shouldn’t.
Fairness is what I want for everyone. There should be no reason to cast aspersions on anyone in our judicial system/process. If there are people who are casting aspersions without proper foundation, then they should be thoroughly discredited.
Here is the article that I saw:
I believe that there were illegal aliens working there; nearly 400 were arrested in the raid. I don’t know how involved Rubashkin himself was in their hiring, since this never came to trial and the judge herself elided between hiring illegals and conspiring to do so (which could involve setting the conditions that make it possible to do so).
I believe he was involved in falsifying the bring-down certificates by falsifying accounts receivable.
My belief is irrelevant, though. The point of this specific post was that he made a judgment to contest the charges, but I am sure never expected the prosecutors to seek a lifetime in prison upon his being found guilty.
Moreover, my basic point is that the sentence is grossly disproportionate. He was convicted of bank fraud based on falsely certifying that the company had not violated the law when it had. The company should have been prosecuted for hiring illegal aliens and the bank should have sued him for making up false financial statements. It is not justified to send him to jail for the rest of his life based on the company having been in violation of the law when he certified to his bank that the company was in compliance with the law.
I am appalled by the sentence, not the conviction.
All of the counts were based on a statement in the company’s compliance certificates to the bank that it was not in violation of the law. Every certificate became a separate offense; every law that it was alleged to have violated became a separate offense; sending the certificates by fax became a separate offense; sending the certificates by courier (the order does not say US mail service) became a separate offense.
The number of counts often is used to make the reader believe that the conviction was based on far more violations than actually occurred.
Life sentences in white-collar cases are rare but growing more common, said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor who has followed the Rubashkin case. "I don't want to say it's common - because it's not - but in the last few years it hasn't been unknown," Henning said.
At face value, it appears a life sentence prosecutorial request is (barely) within the bounds of current legal action...an outlier but not unprecedented. It certainly looks like the butcher made an awful decision not to take the plea deal he was offered.
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