Last week's grand jury appears to have led to a guilty plea by an Agriprocessors HR clerk. But HR director Elizabeth Billmeyer remains uncharged.
Agriprocessors supervisor sentenced to prison time, HR clerk enters guilty plea
LYNDA WADDINGTON, Iowa Independent
A former Agriprocessors beef supervisor was sentenced today in federal court to three years in prison. The news comes on the same day that a former plant human resources employee pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraudulent immigration statement charges.
Juan Carlos Guerrero-Espinoza, 36 of Postville, received a three-year federal prison term today for conspiring to hire and aiding and abetting illegal immigrants at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant.
Court documents indicate that while Guerrero-Espinoza oversaw roughly 60 employees on the beef line at Agriprocessors, he encouraged several under his supervision to obtain new fraudulent identification documents in May 2008. He received $4,500 in cash from the Rubashkin family, owners of the plant, to loan to the employees who needed money to purchase the new fraudulent documents.
Penny Ann Hanson, 41 of Clermont, admitted that she conspired to make false statements on immigration documents while working in the human resources office at Agriprocessors. Although currently free on bond until sentencing, she faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, a $500,000 fine, a $200 special assessment and six years of supervised release.
According to information filed earlier this month, Hanson conspired with others to make falsified statements on immigration I-9 forms and knowingly accepted fraudulent resident alien cards. These offenses, according to her testimony took place between September 2003 and December 2006.
In addition, on September 3, 2004 Hanson falsely certified on a form I-9 that she had examined an identification document presented by an applicant at the plant, and that the document appeared genuine. Court documents state that she did not examine the identification document in question.
Guerrero-Espinoza is being held in the custody of the U.S. Marshal’s Office until he can be transported to a federal prison.
The federal investigation into possible illegal activities at the Postville Agriprocessors plant began in October 2007. It has continued since May 2008, when federal immigration authorities stormed the meatpacking plant and detained nearly 400.
Several additional supervisors and human resource employees who worked at the plant await trail and/or sentencing on immigration related charges. The plant itself, which is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is also the subject of a criminal case. Day-to-day chief executive Sholom M. Rubashkin, son of company founder A. Aaron Rubashkin, also faces a myriad of criminal charges ranging from multi-million dollar bank fraud to immigration-related offenses.
At least two former plant supervisors are believed to have fled the country and are being sought by federal authorities. Earlier this month another plant supervisor, Martin De La Rosa-Loera, was sentenced to two years in federal prison on immigration-related charges.
Three additional property companies that owned and managed residential and other real estate interests in Postville and the surrounding area have also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Sholom Rubashkin and his brother Heshy were listed as the companies’ officers.
In addition to the federal charges, members of Rubashkin family and several other company employees face more than 9,000 violations of Iowa’s child labor laws.
Although other members of the Agriprocessors human resources department are believed to have come before the federal court this month, to date no additional employees face charges. The investigation, according to prosecutors, is ongoing.