Agriprocessors official testifies to getting cash salaries to avoid taxes
By JENS MANUEL KROGSTAD • Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. --- Defense attorneys of Sholom Rubashkin battled on Monday with a former Agriprocessors lead accountant who testified Rubashkin played a part in a multimillion dollar bank fraud scheme.
Mitchell Meltzer, a chief financial officer at the kosher meatpacking plant when he was fired in March 2009, testified he and four other employees received at least some of their salaries in cash to avoid taxes.
Meltzer said he also shifted expenses around to conceal purchases from the bank and created false invoices he and former financial officer Toby Bensasson called "tootsies."
When it came time to submit financial reports to the bank, Meltzer said Rubashkin had the final say on the numbers.
First Bank Business Capital sent the kosher meat plant four loan payments totaling $3.45 million after a May 2008 immigration raid resulted in the arrest of one-third of its workers.
"Sometimes he would offer changes, and they made them," he said. "He usually wanted more income."
Defense attorney F. Montgomery Brown hammered away at Meltzer, painting him as a dishonest man who stole money from the company and lied on his resume.
When Meltzer said he cashed a few checks as a favor to Rubashkin, Brown pounced.
"You kept the money," he said.
"Absolutely not," Meltzer responded.
"You fleeced the company, didn't you?" Brown said.
Brown quizzed him on why his Facebook page indicated he was Agriprocessors chief financial officer for more than 12 years, even though he only held the title from November 2008 to March 2009.
Brown followed up by suggesting he had a reputation for exaggeration in the community, and prosecutors offered the last of many objections during the line of questioning.
"Let's not argue during questioning; let's move on," U.S. District Judge Linda Reade said.
Two high-level employees of companies that bought most of their kosher meat from Agriprocessors said they refused to pay some bills because the plant's invoices didn't match their records.
Albert Barel, controller at Los Angeles-based City Glatt, said when the trustee of Agriprocessors in January called bills from 2007 and 2008 past due, his company balked. City Glatt asked for proof of delivery, but the plant could not produce any records.
"We saw there were a lot of invoices not in our records, so we did not pay," he said.
Steve [Tzvi] Cohen, president of Twin City Poultry, offered similar testimony.
He said none of the invoices from November 2007 to October 2008 obtained from Agriprocessors showed up in his company's records.
Government lawyers presented their first witness for charges Rubashkin violated a 2002 federal order to pay cattle providers within 24 hours of a sale.
Prosecutors used a 1921 law, the U.S. Packers and Stockyards Act, for the charges. It is the first time in history criminal charges have been sought under the law.
Adam Fast, a senior auditor in Des Moines for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, testified Rubashkin certified an annual report in 2002, the same year Agriprocessors allegedly failed to pay for livestock in a timely manner.
On cross-examination, defense attorney Guy Cook said Rubashkin's name did not appear in the complaint, and in a consent agreement resolving the case Agriprocessors did not admit to any of the allegations.