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 Iowa meatpacker fined nearly $10M for violations

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PostSubject: Iowa meatpacker fined nearly $10M for violations   Wed Oct 29, 2008 5:55 pm

Iowa meatpacker fined nearly $10M for violations

IOWA CITY, Iowa Iowa on Wednesday fined a kosher meatpacking plant that was targeted by a federal immigration raid nearly $10 million for alleged violations of state labor laws.

Labor Commissioner Dave Neil assessed the civil penalties against Agriprocessors in Postville for what he called repeated violations of Iowa's wage laws from January 2006 to June 2008.

"Once again, Agriprocessors has demonstrated a complete disregard for Iowa law," Neil said in a statement. "This continued course of violations is a black mark on Iowa's business community."

The civil penalties totaled $9.99 million, including $339,700 for the alleged illegal deduction of "sales tax/miscellaneous" costs nearly 3,400 times; $9.6 million for illegally deducting money from 2,001 employees for protective clothing more than 96,000 times; and failing to pay 42 employees their last paychecks following the May 12 raid by immigration agents.

An Agriprocessors spokesman didn't immediately respond to a call seeking comment.

The fines are the latest trouble for Agriprocessors since the May raid in which 389 people were arrested.

In September, the plant owner and managers were charged with 9,311 misdemeanors alleging they illegally hired minors and let children younger than 16 handle dangerous equipment. The complaint filed by the Iowa attorney general's office said the violations involved 32 illegal-immigrant children younger than 18, including seven who were not yet 16.

Two human resources employees Laura Althouse and Karina Freund also were accused of federal violations for helping illegal workers use false documents to work at the plant.

On Wednesday, Althouse pleaded guilty in federal court in Cedar Rapids to conspiracy to harbor undocumented immigrants for financial gain and aggravated identity theft. Trial for Freund is scheduled for Nov. 17.

Althouse, 38, of Postville, originally faced the conspiracy charge as well as charges of aiding and abetting document fraud and aiding and abetting aggravated identity theft.

Her lawyer didn't immediately respond to calls seeking comment.

The U.S. attorneys office said Althouse remains free on bail pending sentencing. She faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge, and up to two years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the aggravated identity theft charge.

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