Trial to Begin on Illegal Workers

Published: October 12, 2009

The former chief executive of an Iowa slaughterhouse that was at the center of one of nation’s largest immigration raids is scheduled to stand trial in federal court beginning Tuesday on a host of charges including money laundering and bank fraud.

Hundreds of workers at the Agriprocessors slaughterhouse in Iowa were arrested in a 2008 raid.

The defendant, Sholom Rubashkin, was a top manager and part of the family ownership at Agriprocessors Inc., a meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, that was one of the largest kosher slaughterhouses in the country.

Mr. Rubashkin, 49, is accused of being closely involved in efforts to employ illegal workers at the plant, in addition to the fraud-related charges.

About half of Agriprocessors’ work force was arrested at the plant in the May 2008 raid. The immigrants had reported the use of under-age employees and what they said were abusive work conditions to the authorities.

Hundreds of workers, some from Guatemala, were convicted on federal charges after the raid. Most served five months in prison and were deported.

Iowa prosecutors initially faced criticism for punishing the workers but not Agriprocessors’ executives and owners. Mr. Rubashkin is the highest-ranking executive to face arrest in stepped-up immigration raids at packinghouses nationwide since late 2006.

The trial had been set to take place in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, not far from the slaughterhouse. But a judge granted a change of venue, to Sioux Falls, S.D., saying that news coverage of the case posed a risk of influencing potential jurors.

“Mr. Rubashkin denies all charges levied against him, and is thankful for the court’s ruling giving a change of venue,