By Trish Mahaffey, The Gazette
CEDAR RAPIDS — A federal judge went below guideline sentencing Thursday, giving Midamar Founder William Aossey, Jr., only two out of a possible nine years in federal prison for organizing a fraud to pass off halal meat to Malaysia that otherwise couldn’t have been shipped based on slaughtering methods.
U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade at the end of a two hour hearing said she was going to give Aossey, 74, a lesser sentence based on the crime and his history and characteristics, but added she was “extremely disappointed in Mr. Aossey’s conduct before the jury and the court” when he perjured himself.
Reade pointed out that Aossey will no longer be able to work at Midamar or be in a management role. It’s also unlikely Aossey will have another management job in his lifetime where he could commit fraud. She added that Aossey before 2007 had operated a legitimate business, employing many employees and contributing to his community.
“But I’m unable to overlook the aggravating factors…your lack of respect for the law and your false testimony.”
Aossey was convicted in July of one count of conspiracy to make false statements, the selling of misbranded meat and committing mail and wire fraud; seven counts of making or causing false statements on export applications; and seven counts of wire fraud.
He was acquitted of four money laundering charges.
Trial testimony showed Aossey instructed Midamar employees to re-box, re-label and ship beef to Malaysia. The USDA establishment numbers in at least, 22 shipments, were changed from the slaughter facility that was Midamar’s supplier, which wasn’t approved by the country, to another facility, which was approved but not a supplier to Midamar.
The judge sternly lectured Aossey and his lawyer Haytham Faraj earlier in the hearing, saying he committed perjury regarding a statement to USDA, where he admitted the mislabeling fraud in 2010 but tried to discount it and the investigators to the jury in attempt for acquittal. Reade added that Faraj backed him up by also claiming it during the trial.
“You made false representations as a lawyer,” Reade said. “It’s your job to check out the documents.”
Faraj said he didn’t intentionally mislead the court.
Aossey said he made the 2010 statement because he was exhausted mentally and physically after just getting back from overseas to face the USDA inspectors. At the previous hearing, the first part of his sentencing on Feb. 5, Aossey told the judge he was mistaken on dates when he testified. Today, he said in a statement read by Faraj that he was mistaken about being overseas. He was instead flying back from Las Vegas, but he had been in Scottsdale, Ariz., with his son who was having cancer treatments.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Murphy said this was the second or third version of this story and he lied again: “He can’t be trusted.”
Reade agreed with Murphy. She also chastised Aossey for never admitting guilt or expressing remorse for his crime. She said Aossey testified that he felt his act was “trivial…a labeling infraction.”
“I didn’t intentionally lie,” Aossey said in the statement. “I will leave it to you to decide.”
Following Aossey’s sentencing, Reade also sentenced Midamar and ISA Inc. to each serve five years probation with special conditions. Last year, corporate officers for Midamar and ISA, Jalel and Yahya Aossey, William’s sons, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to make and use materially false statements and documents, sell misbranded meat, and commit wire fraud.
As part of the plea agreement, Midamar must follow a USDA consent decree that included restructuring debt and management for Midamar and the company will be under USDA oversight for five years. Jalel Aossey was required to give up a management role in both companies and Yahya Aossey is now in charge of both.
ISA will be required to provide financial information to probation if needed, can’t open lines of credit without probation approval, as well as other conditions.
Midamar was fined $20,000 and ISA will pay $60,000. Testimony during the separate sentencings showed Midamar is strapped for cash and was dependent on ISA, which is profitable. Reade ordered lesser fines than what prosecutors recommended because the companies had to pay $600,000 jointly in forfeitures.
Aossey was also ordered to pay a $60,000 fine, a forfeiture of over $184,000, and $16,824, which is the cost of prosecution.
Jalel and Yahya Aossey will be sentenced on March 11 for their part in the export fraud