Agri Star accountant worked at company after felony guilty plea
By JENS MANUEL KROGSTAD • Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier
POSTVILLE - The former chief financial officer at Agriprocessors was hired by the kosher meat plant's new owners in August, and remained at the company even after he pleaded guilty to financial fraud and detailed his crimes in court.
Mitch Meltzer worked as an accountant at Agri Star Meat and Poultry LLC, which bought Agriprocessors last summer, until sometime last week, around the time the Courier called seeking information on Meltzer's position at the company.
In late September, Meltzer pleaded guilty to conspiring to make false statements to a bank. He was released on bond, and agreed to testify in the financial fraud trial of former Agriprocessors vice president Sholom Rubashkin. Meltzer faces up to five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years probation.
Meltzer was fired in March by Agriprocessors' government-appointed trustee, Joseph Saracheck. Saracheck declined to comment on his reasons behind the move.
"Agri Star Meat and Poultry LLC is committed to creating a safe, productive workplace where we produce high quality products for our kosher consumers. Two key components of our business strategy are integrity and trustworthiness. We strive everyday to uphold these values," he said.
Meltzer did not return a message on Facebook, and he no longer lives at a phone number listed under his name, said a person who answered the phone.
Maryn Olson, coordinator for the Postville Response Coalition, said she’s encouraged Agri Star took immediate action and fired Meltzer.
"Agri Star is under a lot of scrutiny. It’s a good sign if they’re not having tolerance for unethical behavior from the start," she said.
Because of his involvement with Agriprocessors, Meltzer’s charge and guilty plea appeared in news outlets statewide.
But an individual close to the company who spoke on condition of anonymity said Friedman, a Canadian businessman, was surprised by Meltzer’s criminal record.
Meltzer did not tell Agri Star of federal charges filed against him Sept. 24, nor his guilty plea four days later and his role as cooperating witness for the government, the individual said.
The source said Agri Star was aware Meltzer had been fired by the Agriprocessors trustee, but Friedman did not take much stock in the move because the trustee had been difficult to deal with in negotiations to buy the company.
Three weeks ago, Meltzer testified that he shifted expenses to conceal purchases from the bank and created false invoices, and that Rubashkin had final say on what numbers were submitted to the bank. Meltzer also said he and four other employees received some of their salaries in cash to avoid taxes.
Rubashkin’s attorneys hammered away at Meltzer’s character, accusing him of stealing from the company and lying on his resume.
Rubashkin was convicted Thursday in Sioux Falls, S.D. on 86 counts of bank, mail and wire fraud, money laundering and failure to pay livestock providers in a timely manner.
[Hat Tip: The Other DK.]