The man many think recruited underage workers for Rubashkin and paid them – and other illegals – off the books has been subpoenaed by a grand jury.
UPDATE – Please scroll down the page an interesting JTA report.
A person with a long history of working with the immigrant population in Postville, site of a major immigration raid this month, has been summoned to appear in June before a grand jury.
Ron Wahls, a guidance counselor in the Postville school district, said he received the summons during the school day Thursday.
When approached at his house later Thursday, Wahls said he couldn't recall the details about his scheduled appearance. He said he hadn't yet hired an attorney.
More than 300 people were arrested May 12 at Postville's Agriprocessors Inc. on fraud and immigration-related charges. Federal prosecutors and immigration agents haven't said whether they plan to charge any of the managers at Agriprocessors amid allegations of worker abuse and fraud.
Wahls' name has been circulated for years among immigrants from Guatemala to the Ukraine as a contact person who can help get them settled in Postville.
"I hope it's like any family," he said last week. "If I help you, you tell your relatives. Maybe I can (help them), maybe I can't."
In addition to working at the school, he also is a minister at a Hispanic church in Postville and owns rental property in the community.
Officials with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. attorney's office declined to comment on whether a grand jury had been convened in connection with the Postville raid. Grand jury proceedings are secret, as are the witness list of people called to testify and the subject under review.
An Agriprocessors representative also declined to comment about the grand jury summons.
"As with any legal matter, Agriprocessors cannot comment about any specific allegation," Chaim Abrahams said in a statement. "The company is performing an independent investigation and will continue to cooperate with the government about this matter."
Wahls was named in a 21-point subpoena that the Iowa Division of Labor Services served on the Postville school district in April. In the subpoena, school officials were required to provide Wahls' contract with the district; names of children working for Wahls at his two apartment buildings, which were sold to Agriprocessors Chief Executive Officer Sholom Rubashkin; and all records on Wahls' school computer or at Postville schools that relate to the students and former students of Postville schools and Wahls' work for Agriprocessors.
An R.W. is also named in an affidavit that ICE filed prior to the raid in the process of obtaining a search warrant. Wahls told The Des Moines Register that he probably is the R.W. in the affidavit. The ICE affidavit alleged that R.W carries an envelope of cash with him. The affidavit alleged that R.W. used the cash to pay Agriprocessors employees. Wahls said he does carry cash, but that it's for the 50 apartments he manages in Postville. He said residents often pay in cash or ask him to cash their checks, so he said it's necessary for him to have cash on him.
The affidavit also alleges that R.W. is the "point of contact" for Agriprocessors employees who have "misunderstandings" with their Social Security numbers. "Where would I get those?" Wahls said. "I don't even know where my Social Security card is. I have no knowledge of that." Wahls said the majority of the allegations in the affidavit probably stem from Postville residents who resent the presence of Hispanics in their town.
Some of the rent extortion allegations may also involve Wahls.
Could this be the beginning of the end for the Rubashkins? While time will tell, it does look like it.
[Hat Tips: Stephen M. and Michelle.]
UPDATE 5-23-08 – The JTA has a better report (when was the last time anyone said that?):
Agriprocessors associate summoned to grand jury
An Iowa businessman with ties to the kosher slaughterhouse targeted in last week's immigration raid was summoned to appear in June before a grand jury.
Ron Wahls, a guidance counselor in the Postville public schools and the owner of several rental properties in town, said he received the subpoena Thursday, the Des Moines Register reported.
It is unclear whether Wahls has been called as a witness or as a potential target of a government investigation. A spokesperson for the Northern Iowa U.S. Attorney's Office would neither confirm or deny that a grand jury has been convened in connection with the Postville raid.
"The obvious thing to say is that they're building a case against the Rubashkins themselves," said Marc Stern, general counsel to the American Jewish Congress.
An R.W. was named in the original government affidavit that laid the legal groundwork for last week's raid at Agriprocessors, which netted 389 illegal immigrants. R.W. is alleged to have carried an envelope of cash with which he paid undocumented Agiprocessors employees.
Wahls told the Des Moines Register that he is probably the R.W. named in the affidavit.
Wahls has ties to Agriprocessors and its owners, the Rubashkin family of Brooklyn. He participated in a November 2006 meeting in Minneapolis with Sholom Rubashkin, who runs Agriprocessors, and two Jewish officials trying to improve conditions at the plant. A page on the Agriprocessors' Web site, headlined "Finding a Home: Postville Housing," identifies Ron Wahls as the builder of apartment buildings to house workers at the plant.
Phone messages left for Wahls at his home and office, as well as for a spokesperson for Agirprocessors, were not returned.