A concerted campaign emerged to paint prosecutors as racists, Nazis, and zealots. This office followed the law, stood silent in the face of vicious and false accusations, and worked to the conclusion of the case. Silence is no longer in order.
LETTER TO THE EDITORFOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Date: June 22, 2010
On June 22, 2010, Sholom Rubashkin was sentenced to 27 years in prison. That closed another chapter involving the May 12, 2008, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement worksite enforcement operation at Postville, Iowa. The time has come to set the record straight about that day and the following two years.
The small town of Postville relied upon Agriprocessors. Postville was occupied by residents who benefitted from, and feared the discovery of, hundreds of illegal workers. Agriprocessors capitalized on fears – workers’ fears of being deported; employees’ fears of revealing lies made to the company’s creditors; and residents’ fears of the town’s economy crumbling if Agriprocessors’ illegal acts were discovered. The tough decision was made to go forward with a massive enforcement operation after consultations at the highest levels of the United States Departments of Justice and Homeland Security.
May 12, 2008, was a day many will long remember. Hundreds of illegal workers – compliant and accepting – were charged, provided attorneys, and entered into the criminal justice system. Tireless agents, U.S. Attorney’s Office employees, defense attorneys, and court personnel worked around the clock to ensure defendants’ rights were protected and standards of human decency were met.
By May 22, 2008, 306 illegal workers had pled guilty to their immigration- or document-related offenses. The prosecution of the illegal workers was complete. The prosecution of those who preyed upon those workers had just begun.
Over the next 18 months, hundreds of witnesses were interviewed. An intensive investigation substantiated crimes known in May 2008 and revealed many more unknown crimes. Steadily, the case against Agriprocessors, Sholom Rubashkin, and others was built. At each step, a grand jury heard the evidence and returned indictments charging the crimes. Ultimately, nine lower level Agriprocessors managers and office employees pled guilty and were sentenced.
After an impartial trial jury heard the evidence and convicted Rubashkin on November 12, 2009, a concerted campaign emerged to paint prosecutors as racists, Nazis, and zealots. This office followed the law, stood silent in the face of vicious and false accusations, and worked to the conclusion of the case. Silence is no longer in order.
First, claims from people not involved in the May 2008 enforcement action about what supposedly occurred in Postville and Waterloo have been ill-informed and false. Agents were not clad in riot gear. There was no military operation. The single helicopter on the scene was equipped only for surveillance and to provide medical evacuation should there have been a need. During their short time at the National Cattle Congress grounds, the illegal workers were appropriately housed and fed meals catered by Hy-Vee. They had access to phones, televisions, and other recreational activities.
Their health needs were monitored and attended. Those who identified themselves as sole care givers of children were immediately released. A representative from the Guatemalan consulate inspected the grounds and found no shortcomings in how the workers were treated. The fact that some detractors have made false claims of prodding people down cattle chutes and other imagined abuses says more about those detractors’ personal agendas than it does about the real events in May 2008.
Second, the enforcement action was critical to the successful prosecution of Rubashkin and other management employees at Agriprocessors. These cases could not have been effectively prosecuted if the illegal workers had not been arrested and detained. Not one unarrested illegal worker ever came forward to assist law enforcement.
Third, Rubashkin absolutely personally profited from his crimes. The jury never found otherwise. Uncontroverted evidence at trial showed that, during just the two years immediately preceding May 2008, Rubashkin funneled about $1.5 million from Agriprocessors’ accounts to his personal bank accounts. Hundreds of thousands of those dollars paid his personal credit card bills, remodeled his home, paid his taxes, paid his personal mortgage, bought jewelry and silver, and made his car payments.
Fourth, claims Rubashkin’s religious beliefs led to his prosecution have no foundation. His faith had nothing to do with his crimes, prosecution, or punishment.
Finally, various interest groups and people evidently seeking personal notoriety have hijacked the true facts of this case for their own purposes. It is impossible to address the mountain of false information that has found its way into the public arena. But the jury found the truth – that Rubashkin knowingly employed illegal workers and committed a $26 million bank fraud. He is a common criminal who committed uncommon crimes.
Stephanie M. Rose
United States Attorney