The founder of a popular line of food products for observant Muslims has been charged with fraudulently shipping beef to Malaysia and Indonesia that didn’t meet the countries’ import requirements, federal prosecutors in Iowa said Friday.
Bill Aossey Jr., who founded Midamar Corp. in 1974, was charged with conspiring to change labels and fabricate documents to make products appear that they originated from a slaughterhouse that met Malaysian and Indonesian requirements. Iowa-based Midamar is a leading U.S. halal company that sells beef, turkey, chicken and other products around the world.
His attorney, Haytham Faraj, called the 19-count indictment unfair, saying it was filed after his client rejected a plea agreement. Aossey, a prominent 73-year-old Cedar Rapids businessman, hasn’t been arrested.
The indictment charges Aossey with conspiring to sell misbranded meat, making false statements on export certificates, wire fraud and money laundering.
Faraj said evidence will show that the exported beef met Malaysian and Indonesian standards.
“This was not a case where they were substituting inferior product for the product that was requested. It was a minor regulatory violation that USDA’s own inspectors who were present didn’t think was a violation at the time,” he said. “The product was of the same quality. It met the halal standard.”
He said he believed Midamar was being treated more harshly than other meat companies because of its Muslim ownership.
The investigation dates to 2010, when USDA inspectors seized thousands of pounds of what they called misbranded meat products at Midamar. The agency stopped voluntary inspections at Midamar but resumed them after the company took corrective actions. In 2012, agents descended on Midamar to serve search warrants seizing its business records, computers and bank accounts.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the largest U.S. Muslim civil liberties group, said it was troubled by the raid and the secrecy surrounding it.
Midamar’s lawyers have accused the government of improperly trying to define halal standards, saying that should be left to religions.
Midamar’s Response to the federal indictment against William Aossey Jr.
(Cedar Rapids, Iowa-USA) Midamar Corporation was informed Friday of the federal indictment against William Aossey Jr., the Founder of Midamar. Midamar is disappointed by the charges. The government’s heavy handed tactics in the course of the investigation during which company bank accounts were seized in 2012 but later returned after discovery that Midamar had not engaged in any criminal misconduct, demonstrates the malicious intent behind the baseless charges alleging deceptive practices, fraud, and money laundering by Bill Aossey.
While these charges are against the founder of Midamar and not the company, the directors and employees of the company have grave concerns that Mr. Aossey may be unfairly singled out and targeted. Mr. Aossey is a 73 year old Iowan. His ancestors moved to Iowa in the 1880s. Iowa has been the family’s home since then. Mr. Aossey has lived an extraordinarily law abiding life. He is widely revered for his entrepreneurial vision and his years of developing trade from the USA to various regions of the world. As such we believe that this attack on his integrity and reputation is unmerited, unfair and inconsistent with traditional American notions of justice and equal treatment under the law.
The actions catalogued in the indictment refer to regulatory infractions committed without any intent to deceive or profit. To the extent that certain actions violated regulations, Midamar took actions to correct the violations to the satisfaction of USDA officials in the summer of 2011. Such actions are common in a heavily regulated industry. In fact, Midamar stands proud in its industry as having very few regulatory infractions.
Midamar continues to operate as usual. Our customers can expect to receive the same quality product they have come to expect from Midamar. Our vendors can trust that all obligations will be honored and our employees will continue to be our most important asset. Our customers and suppliers can rest assured that all USDA and export supply line services remain intact and fully operational. All Midamar products continue to be sold domestically and exported to customers worldwide.
Midamar Corporation is a pioneer and a leader in Halal food services. Since 1974, Midamar has provided Halal food production and distribution, export management for US companies, and export services to restaurant franchises located throughout the Middle East, South East Asia, and the Far East. For more information visit midamar.com.
Sara Sayed firstname.lastname@example.org 319 362 3711