USA: Aossey brothers convicted in Midamar halal beef export scheme

By Trish Mehaffey, The Gazette September 11, 2015

MidamarCEDAR RAPIDS — Jalel and Yahya Aossey, corporate officers of ISA Inc. and Midamar, pleaded guilty Friday in federal court for their part in a fraud scheme where halal beef was illegally exported to Malaysia and Indonesia.

The brothers each face short prison sentences but Yahya Aossey, convicted of misdemeanor charges, will ask for a deferred judgment and probation.

Jalel Aossey, 40, director and president of ISA, pleaded guilty to one felony count of the original 92-count indictment, stemming from the sale of halal beef products which didn’t adhere to strict slaughtering standards or originate from slaughtering facilities approved by Malaysia and Indonesia.

He admitted during his hearing to conspiring to cover up material facts by a scheme, making and using false statements and documents in a matter within the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture, making false statements on export certificates with the intent to defraud and committing mail and wire fraud from 2007 and continuing into April 2012.

This was the same charge Midamar and ISA Inc. were each convicted on Wednesday. The companies each face one to five years probation, fines and forfeitures.

Jalel Aossey faces up to five years in prison, a possible fine of $500,000 or more. The fine will be up to the discretion of the judge.

He will be required to resign from any position he holds with Midamar or North American Halal Food Industries, another Cedar Rapids business owned by the Aosseys, and any entities regulated by the USDA, as part of the plea. And he must agree to divest himself of any ownership in either business, and can’t be part of the operations of either business for five years. Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Murphy said during the hearing he was mistaken during an earlier trial when he said Jalel and Yahya Aossey would be jointly liable for the $600,000 forfeiture with each company. Only Midamar and ISA will be liable for the forfeiture.

Yahya Aossey, 45, director of Midamar, also pleaded guilty in a separate hearing to charges filed Thursday. He is being charged as the “responsible corporate officer,” pleading to two misdemeanor counts of selling and transporting meat food products that were misbranded at the time of sale or transportation.

He faces up to one year in prison on each charge and a fine of up to $100,000 on each charge, which will be up to the discretion of the judge. He also will ask the court for a deferred judgment on prosecution of count one of the 92-count indictment, which will be handled at sentencing.

Yahya Aossey admitted during the hearing to selling the misbranded meat that falsely claimed in ISA documents that it had been “supervised and slaughtered by Muslim slaughterman.”

According to trial testimony, the brother’s father, Midamar founder William Aossey, directed employees at Midamar to fabricate and falsify shipping records and change USDA establishment numbers identifying where the meat was slaughtered.

ISA certificates were also falsified, under William Aossey’s direction, to make it appear as if beef products had been slaughtered at an approved facility for those two countries. Midamar founder William Aossey, 73, was convicted in July of 15 charges for his involvement in the export scheme. Of the original 19 charges, he was acquitted of four money laundering charges.

William Aossey remains in jail pending sentencing. He faces eight to 10 years and possibly more in prison, and the prosecution has asked the court to require him to forfeit $184,984 as illegal proceeds from his offense.

Sentencings for the brothers haven’t been set at this time.