USA: Trials Scheduled for Iowa Defendants in Halal Case

ARTICLE ONE – May 12, 2015

Trials Scheduled for Iowa Defendants in Halal Case

The founder of an Iowa-based global supplier of Halal meat and poultry products is scheduled for a federal criminal trial starting July 7 which is expected to take about a week. Another trial is scheduled for Sept. 28 for his two sons and the company he founded, the entity that certifies its products as Halal. The second trial is expected to take two weeks.Chief Judge Linda R. Reade will preside over both trials in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa in Cedar Rapids. She was appointed to the federal bench in 2002 by George W. Bush.USDistrictCourtCedarRapidsThe July and September federal fraud and conspiracy trials both involve the export of Halal meat to Southeast Asia. Halal foods are those permitted or lawful under Islamic dietary guidelines. Under these guidelines, animals must be cared for and slaughtered in such a way as to limit pain, among other requirements.First to be indicted last October in the current Halal cases was William B. Aossey, Jr., 73, of Cedar Rapids.

The founder of the Midamar Corporation was charged with one count of conspiracy to make false statements, sell misbranded meat, and commit mail and wire fraud; seven counts of making or causing false statements to be made on export applications; seven counts of wire fraud; three counts of money laundering, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The indictment also contains two forfeiture allegations for proceeds and property involved in some of the offenses charged.

The conspiracy charge, if proven, is punishable by up to five years of imprisonment. Conviction on each count of making a false statement on an export application is punishable by up to three years, each count of wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years, and each count of money laundering, including the money laundering conspiracy charge, is punishable by up to 20 years.

A fine of up to $250,000 may also be imposed for each count, along with a term of supervised release.

Then, this past December, charges were brought against the Midamar Corporation and Islamic Services of America (ISA), both based in Cedar Rapids, and corporate officers of the businesses, Jalel Aossey, 40, and William “Yahya” Aossey, 44, also of Cedar Rapids.

They were named in a 92-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa at Cedar Rapids. The indictment charges each defendant business and person with one count of conspiracy to make and use materially false statements and documents, sell misbranded meat, and commit wire fraud.

The indictment also charges each defendant with three counts of making false statements on export applications, 43 counts of wire fraud, 44 counts of money laundering, and one count of conspiring to commit money laundering. The indictment also contains two forfeiture allegations, seeking proceeds and property involved in certain alleged offenses.

The additional defendants, if convicted, are facing the same potential sentences as the elder Aossey. The conspiracy charge is punishable by up to five years imprisonment. Each count of making a false statement on an export application is punishable by up to three years. Each count of wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years of imprisonment, as is each count of money laundering, including the money laundering conspiracy count.

A fine of up to $250,000 may also be imposed on each count, along with a term of supervised release following any imprisonment. All the defendants have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

In a plea agreement with the government, Midamar’s former operations manager, Philip Payne, 50, has agreed to plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to make and deliver false certificates and writings in exchange for the prosecution deferring two additional federal felony counts of defrauding the United States. Payne is expected to testify against his former employers.

Both Midamar and ISA continue to do business and are sharing opinions about the federal criminal cases with their customers. After the company itself was indicted, Midamar told customers it “does not accept these allegations and is now seeking to understand what the government is basing these allegations on.”

“In 2010, there was a USDA administrative infraction regarding facility numbers that were incorrect,” Midamar wrote in a letter to customers. “This was never a Halal issue. The product exported was Halal. It was an exporting issue involving facility numbers.”

The letter states that Midamar has been fully compliant with USDA since 2010: “The administrative labeling infraction is being misconstrued and sensationalized by the the media as a deliberate attempt by the company to commit Halal fraud.”

Midamar’s letter to customers also asserts that the federal government does not fully understand “the complexities and global sensitivities of the Halal market.”

Judge Reade has signed a criminal trial scheduling order for both the coming trials. A status hearing will be held June 11 prior to the first trial. The final pre-trial status hearing for the second trial is scheduled for Aug. 27.

A final pre-trial conference is scheduled for both trials a half-hour before jury selection begins.

In 2010, Reade presided over the trial of Sholom Rubashkin, who was then-CEO of Agriprocessors, a now-bankrupt kosher slaughterhouse and meat packing plant in Postville, IA. He was convicted of 86 counts of bank fraud, mail and wire fraud, and money laundering.

Reade’s 27-year sentence of Rubashkin was controversial, but it was upheld by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit in St. Louis.­

© Food Safety News

ARTICLE TWO – May 18, 2015

Iowa Halal Producer Gets Hearing on Seized Emails

A motion for an emergency protective order, which is being sought by attorneys for Midamar Corp. executives, will be heard Tuesday by a federal magistrate judge in Cedar Rapids, IA.Midamar founder William B. Aossey Jr. and his two sons want to regain control of emails they say were seized by federal agents last week who were conducting searches related to an alleged gun-smuggling-for-profit scheme.The Halal meat and poultry export company in Cedar Rapids was searched because some guns and ammunition were reportedly included in a shipment of goods from a Midamar-sponsored clothing drive for Lebanon and Syria.Four Cedar Rapids residents with no apparent connection to Midamar Corp. are being held without bail in the alleged gun-smuggling scheme.

The Midamar executives are anxious to get their emails back because they say the documents are protected by attorney-client privilege for the July and September trials they are facing on fraud and conspiracy charges involving their Halal food products.

Midamar did sponsor a clothing drive for war-torn Lebanon and Syria, and the guns and ammunition were reportedly found in that humanitarian shipment on the docks of Norfolk, VA, after an Iowa gun dealer tipped off federal agents.

But what was taken at Midamar gave the government access to attorney-client privileged documents that it should not get to keep, say defense attorneys.

Midamar founder William Aossey, scheduled for trial in July, and his sons Jalel and Yahya Aossey, Miramar Corp. and Islamic Services of America, scheduled for trial in September, were charged in late 2014 with mislabeling Halal beef products and falsifying export documents.

Chicago defense attorney Haytham Faraj says he has represented Midamar since 2011 and that neither company nor the Aosseys have any connection with the accused gun-smugglers.

Tuesday’s hearing will be held by U.S. Magistrate Jon Scoles, the same judge who last week denied bail to the alleged gun-runners after hearing three hours of testimony by government witnesses.

© Food Safety News

ARTICLE THREE – May 19th, 2015

Midamar clarifies purpose behind its export services

Statement: “The only intention of the clothing drive was to help desperate refugees with needed supplies”

CEDAR RAPIDS — Midamar in a statement Monday clarified it only provided export services to the family accused of smuggling guns to Lebanon and had no involvement or knowledge of the weapons.

Midamar was one of the locations searched last week after firearms and accessories were found concealed in shipping containers bound to Lebanon and had a connection to the company.

The company said it learned that Herz Enterprises, using Midamar Shipping Services, was sending a container holding Bobcat machinery to Lebanon. When Midamar found that the machinery didn’t fill the container, Midamar organized a clothing drive for Syrian refugees to be sent in the same container to save shipping charges.

“The only intention of the clothing drive was to help desperate refugees with needed supplies,” according to the statement.

Midamar, a Halal food business, was informed last week that weapons were found inside the Bobcat shipped by Herz, according to the statement. Weapons were not found in the clothing donated to Syria.

According to the affidavit for the criminal complaint, one of the containers intercepted in Norfolk, Va., on March 26 had 53 firearms, firearm parts and accessories and more than 6,800 rounds of ammunition hidden within three Bobcats. The container also had a piano, boxes filled with clothing, shoes, honey and household supplies.

On May 8, law enforcement searched another container of Herz Enterprises which had 99 firearms, more than 9,500 rounds of ammunition and firearm parts and accessories. Many of the firearms were concealed with the two Bobcats, but also there was ammunition and firearms found concealed in suitcases and boxes containing clothing within this shipping container.

A Homeland Security agent testified last Friday during a detention hearing for the defendants that they couldn’t find an entity under the name of “Herz Enterprises” in Iowa or Illinois.

“No charges have been filed against Midamar, and none are anticipated,” Midamar officials said in the statement. “There is no evidence that the company’s owners and employees had any knowledge or involvement in the alleged weapons smuggling.”

Authorities confirmed no Midamar employees had been arrested last week when searches were conducted at Midamar and Pizza Daddy, owned by a brother of one of the defendants. According to the complaint, some of the guns were concealed in white plastic bags “smiliar, if not the same as” those used by the restaurant.

Ali Herz, 50; his son, Adam Herz, 22; his brother Bassem Herz, 30; and Bassem’s wife Sarah Zeaiter, 24, are charged with conspiracy and delivering a package to a carrier without notice that it contained firearms and ammunition.

According to a criminal complaint, the four legally obtained guns and ammunition from dealers in Eastern Iowa, purchasing 113 firearms in 17 months. But then they conspired to conceal them in the containers.

The four family members remain in jail pending trial. If convicted, they each face five years in prison.


CEDAR RAPIDS — A federal magistrate Tuesday directed prosecutors and a halal food company’s attorneys to work together to determine which company emails are confidential and which prosecutors are allowed to see as part of an ongoing criminal case.

Midamar asked the court for an order that would stop the government from looking at emails and texts between the company and its attorneys regarding October criminal charges against William Aossey, his sons and their companies — Midamar and Islamic Services — alleging mislabeling of halal beef products and falsifying documents.