"You've got such a wide range of criminal activity here. The case just kept building, and building, and building. Every time you turned over another rock, there was another crime being committed - and usually, it led to Sholom Rubashkin."
By GRANT SCHULTE • Des Moines RegisterCedar Rapids, Ia. — Sholom Rubashkin deserves the prison time he received Tuesday in federal court, prosecutors said after a judge sentenced the former eastern Iowa meatpacking executive to 27 years.
Bob Teig, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, said the massive financial fraud scheme at Agriprocessors Inc. "cries out for a sentence like this."
Rubashkin, 50, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids and ordered to pay $27 million in restitution to banks and a cattle provider caught in the scheme.
Rubashkin was convicted of 86 fraud-related federal crimes in November, for his part in an effort to defraud the plant's lenders to collect advances on a loan. The plan collapsed after a May 2008 raid at the Postville plant that forced the owners to file for bankruptcy.
Prosecutors, who have seldom spoke publicly since the immigration raid, said the fraud case ranked among the largest ever in Iowa's northern district.
"It is a lengthy sentence," Teig said. "But he earned a lengthy sentence. It's hard to get a 27-year sentence for a white-collar crime. It is very difficult."
Teig said Rubashkin's crimes differed from other high-profile, white-collar cases with lesser sentences because of his actions. U.S. District Judge Linda Reade concluded in her ruling that Rubashkin led the fraud, involved others in the plot and lied at his trial. Teig said Rubashkin consistently refused to cooperate with authorities.
Assistant U.S Attorney Peter Deegan Jr., one of three prosecutors in the case, said financial crimes kept surfacing as investigators dug into the plant's books. Rubashkin's money laundering through a local school and grocery store hindered but did not stop the investigation, he said.
"You've got such a wide range of criminal activity here," Deegan said. "The case just kept building, and building, and building. Every time you turned over another rock, there was another crime being committed - and usually, it led to Sholom Rubashkin."
Defense lawyers vowed to appeal, and railed against the sentence in a press conference with at least 100 of Rubashkin's Orthodox Jewish supporters.
Several in the group toted signs in front of the television cameras. One sign read: "27 years for overstating assets? That makes sense? OMG!"
"While this may appear to be the end of the case, it is not," defense lawyer Guy Cook said. "It is indeed the beginning of the case. It's round one, if you will."
Bob Barr, a former Georgia congressman who joined Rubashkin's legal team for the appeal, said the sentence was "unjust, unnecessary, and unreasonable." He held up a copy of Reade's ruling and said, "This will not stand."
Rubashkin showed little emotion when the decision was read.