Agriprocessors’ former top manager was arrested a day after the company was fined $10 million for alleged labor infractions.
Sholom Rubashkin was arrested Thursday by immigration officials on charges related to the hiring of illegal workers.
Documents filed in federal court allege that Rubashkin conspired to harbor illegal immigrants at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, the nation’s largest kosher meatpacker. The documents further charge that Rubashkin aided and abetted in the use of fake identification documents and identity theft.
Rubashkin is the highest-ranking Agriprocessors official to face criminal charges stemming from the May 12 federal immigration raid at the company’s Postville plant. More than one-third of the company’s workforce was arrested.
According to the criminal complaint filed Thursday, Rubashkin provided funds that were used to purchase new identification for workers at Agriprocessors who were found to have bad papers. The complaint also says Rubashkin asked a human resources officer to come in on a Sunday to process the new employment applications of several such workers.
According to the Des Moines Register, Rubashkin appeared in federal court in Cedar Rapids Thursday afternoon shackled at the wrists, waist and ankles and sat silently through the ten-minute hearing. Rubashkin and his wife are considered a flight risk and were released on condition of a $1 million bond and the surrendering of their passports. Rubashkin will wear an ankle monitoring bracelet.
Company representatives did not respond to several requests for comment. But Nathan Lewin, an attorney who represents Rubashkin’s father and the company owner Aaron Rubashkin, dismissed the arrest as unnecessary and said it was motivated by federal law enforcement’s desire for good publicity.
"The arrest of Mr. Sholom Rubashkin today was a wholly unnecessary and gratuitous act by federal prosecutors apparently engaged in an unseemly competition with State of Iowa officials to capture headlines in a vendetta against Agriprocessors," Lewin said.
Rubashkin’s arrest came a day after Iowa Workforce Development announced it would levy nearly $10 million in fines against the company for alleged labor infractions.
In response to the action by the state labor agency, Agriprocessors CEO Bernard Feldman told The New York Times that he had "grave doubts as to the appropriateness of the claimed violations, and we also take issue with the intended sanction imposed per claim.”