Blog Archive

Friday, February 19, 2010

Rubashkin bail appeal denied, brother-in-law arrested

By Lynda Waddington
The Iowa Independent

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to act on bail release petitions from Sholom Rubashkin, former day-to-day manager at a now defunct Iowa meatpacking company who was convicted on numerous charges of financial fraud last fall.

The Agriprocessors plant, which was sold through bankruptcy proceedings and now operates under new ownership as AgriStar, was the site of a massive immigration raid in May 2008. Nearly 400 workers, or roughly half of the plant’s workforce, was taken into custody by federal authorities. Within days 76 percent of those detained and charged criminally accepted plea agreements, most being sentenced to five months in federal prison prior to their deportation.

Sholom Rubashkin, the son of Agriprocessors’ founder A. Aaron Rubashkin, was instrumental in daily plant operations, which were shared with is brother, Tzvi “Heshy” Rubashkin, who has not faced criminal charges. Prior to the raid, Agriprocessors was one of the nation’s leading suppliers of kosher meat. After the raid, the company quickly deteriorated.

Sholom was charged with numerous financial fraud and immigration-related offenses, the government electing to first prosecute on the fraud violations. When Sholom was convicted in November of 86 counts related to those violations, the government agreed to table the additional immigration-related offenses.

Since his conviction, Sholom has been held in federal custody, pending sentencing. Members of the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community to which the Rubashkins belong, have made numerous pleas on his behalf for bail — all to no avail. The sentencing phase of Rubashkin’s case is expected to get underway next month, and Rubashkin faces a multitude of years in prison.

Yet even as the Rubashkin family prepares to perhaps close one very public criminal case, another has already begun. Milton Balkany, a brother-in-law to Sholom, was arrested this week in New York for allegedly scheming to extort a Connecticut hedge fund out of $4 million. He faces up to 20 years in prison if found guilty of the allegations.

In 2003 Balkany, who is also known as “the Brooklyn Bundler” for his knack for bundling political campaign contributions, was accused of misappropriating federal grant money intended for the Hebrew school. After he entered into a deferred agreement in 2004 regarding the missing funds, the criminal charges were dropped.

The latest allegations suggest that Balkany used his religious influence with a prison inmate to deter the inmate’s cooperation with police. The information known by the inmate, according to court documents, could have been used against a Connecticut hedge fund, which Balkany supposedly extorted for $4 million in exchange for keeping the inmate quiet. Prosecutors contend that Balkany told the hedge fund’s lawyers that, if they did not pay, he would help the inmate reduce his sentence by instructing him to speak openly with government authorities.

Balkany is currently released on $250,000 bond.