Kosher fraudster weeps in handcuffs

By Paul Berger, May 6, 2010

The convicted former CEO of America's largest kosher slaughterhouse broke down in court last week as he apologised to his family and the community for his crimes.

Sholom Rubashkin, 50, spoke towards the end of a two-day hearing in Iowa last week after being found guilty of 86 charges of financial fraud in November.

"I guess this is the time to apologise to my community, and especially to my dear wife and children, for the harm I have caused them," Rubashkin told the court, the chains on his handcuffs trembling, according to the Des Moines Register. "There are no words to express the grief that I feel and have caused them."

Judge Linda Reade had been expected to impose sentence during the hearing. But she announced that she would take "three or four weeks" to consider her decision.

Rabbi Pinchos Lipschutz, editor of Charedi weekly Yated Ne'eman, said Rubashkin's supporters had taken hope from Judge Reade's actions.

"We are law-abiding, faithful citizens and only wish that he be treated fairly and hope that the delay of that sentence will lead to the fairest and most just sentence," Mr Lipschutz said.

Prayer rallies for Rubashkin were held in Orthodox communities last week in Monsey, NY, and in Flatbush and Boro Park, Brooklyn. About 2,000 people attended a rally in Lakewood, NJ.

"We are confident Hashem will hear our prayers that Sholom receives a fair sentence," Mr Lipshutz said.

Sholom Rubashkin was CEO of Agriprocessors when it was raided by federal agents in May 2008. Almost 400 illegal immigrants were rounded up.

Investigators later uncovered a massive fraud in which Rubashkin had falsified documents in order to maintain a multi-million-dollar line of credit from a bank. After securing a fraud conviction last year, federal prosecutors dropped immigration charges against Rubashkin. However, in court papers, they called for a life sentence based on the scale and severity of his crimes.

That decision spurred six prominent lawyers, including former attorney generals, to write to Judge Reade protesting at the excessive sentence.

But last Thursday, Assistant US Attorney Peter Deegan Jr told the court that a life sentence was for violent criminals. Instead, he asked Judge Reade for a sentence of 25 years. Rubashkin's lawyers said a six-year sentence was a more appropriate term.

During the two-day hearing it was revealed that Rubashkin admitted forging bank statements and employing illegal workers.

A psychiatrist hired by the defence team to interview him in jail described a man who could not cope with running the family firm, which was started by his father Aaron Rubashkin. Local cattle suppliers testified that late payments by Agriprocessors pushed their businesses close to bankruptcy.

Judge Reade said she would issue a written ruling on May 27.

Meanwhile, Rubashkin and two Agriprocessors managers are to stand trial on charges of child labour. Jury selection began this week.

Last updated: 1:54pm, May 6 2010