Agents secretly taped former Agriprocessors manager
BY GRANT SCHULTE •Des Moines Register
Federal agents investigating alleged crimes at Agriprocessors Inc. secretly recorded two phone conversations of a former plant manager who fled the country before he could be arrested, according to court papers filed Tuesday.
The fugitive, Hosam Amara, remains at large and is believed to be hiding in Israel. The former poultry manager at Postville's kosher slaughterhouse was one of several managers indicted for immigration and fraud charges last year, six months after an immigration raid.
The recorded conversations took place on March 5 and March 10 of this year, according to papers filed in U.S. District Court for Northern Iowa. Amara reportedly left the country in 2008, around the time of the May raid.
Amara, 44, allegedly incriminated himself, former plant executive Sholom Rubashkin and others during the taped conversations with an unknown person. Prosecutors did not elaborate on what Amara said.
Rubashkin has pleaded not guilty to all charges, denied any wrongdoing and vowed to fight the charges at his trial Sept. 15.
Prosecutors said they disclosed the conversations because their investigation of Amara had largely ended, and there is "no possibility that Amara will voluntarily return to the United States."
"The government has a vested interest in attempting to get him to come back to the country voluntarily as extraditing him is a difficult and lengthy process, made all the more difficult by the fact that the government does not know exactly where and in what country he is hiding," Assistant U.S. Attorney C.J. Williams wrote in court papers.
Bob Teig, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said he had not seen the court filing and would not confirm that any conversation had been recorded. Federal law allows government agents to record phone conversations, as long as one party is aware. But the conversations were deemed inadmissible in court except to impeach Rubashkin, should he choose to testify.
Charges against Amara include illegal immigrant harboring and various forms of fraud.
The taped conversations were disclosed in a government court filing to oppose delaying the trial of Rubashkin, who is scheduled to face a string of immigration, fraud and other charges at his September trial.
Agriprocessors was the site of an immigration raid in May 2008 that led to the arrest and prosecution of 389 immigrant workers. The plant stumbled financially as a result, filed for bankruptcy in November, and was sold last week to an Iowa corporation formed in May.
Amara was definitely in Israel after fleeing Postville. But where is he now? My guess is Ramallah or Jericho – in other words, in the Palestinian Authority.
Extradition from Israel isn't easy to begin with. Extraditing someone from the PA? That would be a nightmare, both logistically and politically.