An alleged scheme to export beef falsely labeled as eligible for sale to customers in Indonesia and Malaysia has prompted a federal grand jury to indict an elderly Iowa businessman on 19 felonies. William B. Aossey Jr., 73, will make his first appearance Thursday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa. The founding owner of the Midamar Corporation, a Halal beef producer based in Cedar Rapids, IA, was charged with the 19 felony counts in a grand jury indictment unsealed Oct. 24. In a statement his company said Aossey was “unfairly singled out and targeted.” It said the government used “heavy handed tactics’ during the investigation that included seizure of company bank accounts that have since been returned. The company was not charged in the indictment and remains open. Aossey is 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 be made on export applications; seven counts of wire fraud; three counts of money laundering, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. Conviction on all charges brought in the indictment could result in the maximum penalties of 246 years in federal prison and fines of $4.75 million. 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. “Midamar was in the business of selling and distributing food products throughout the world,” the indictment states. “Midamar marketed its products as meeting the strictest ‘Halal’ beef slaughtering standards.” Aossey also operated Islamic Services of America (ISA), at an address shared with Midamar, to certify food products as Halal for customers throughout the world. “ISA was one of the few organizations approved by Malaysia and Indonesia to certify Halal beef for import into those countries,” the indictment continues. ISA generated certain export documents, including Halal export certificates and health certificates, which were included with the shipments. Another Aossey-owned company was Tri-Bin Inc. PM is a beef slaughter and production facility in Windom, MN. It is USDA establishment number 633. It is not certified for export to Malaysia and Indonesia. O.P.C. Inc., based in Omaha, is USDA establishment 889A, and it provides custom slaughter for both Halal and non-religious customers. The Omaha slaughter facility occasionally provided processed beef to Midamar, but it did not do so from mid-2007 through April 2010, a time when it was approved for export to Malaysia and Indonesia. It was during that period that Aossey is accused of first fabricating certificates and other materials, including export documents. “The false certificates and writings were created in order to give false impression that the accompanying shipments of beef products complied with the import requirements of the countries to where the beef was being shipped, and accurately reported information required by the Department of Agriculture.” the charges state. The indictment alleges that Midamar filled orders for export to Malaysia and Indonesia from PM and removed its USDA establishment number from the vacuum-sealed packaging by using acetone or nail polish. Midamar employees would then replace the Est. 683 numbers with O.P.C.’s Est. 889A numbers. Each time the establishment numbers were switched, the government charged a false statement on an export certificate. False letterhead and export certificates would also be produced to get the products past USDA inspectors and veterinarians and on their way to Malaysia and Indonesia, the indictment claims. The indictment tracks payments for specific shipments of the falsified products from the two foreign counties into Midamar’s account at Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust, where the funds were then allegedly used for “ongoing business expenses including payroll, product, rent, and shipping expenses.” “Defendant and others schemed to sell and ship purported Halal beef to customers in Indonesia and Malaysia, knowing that the beef did not meet each countries’ requirements for beef imports, because it did not originate from a slaughter facility designated and approved by Indonesia and Malaysia, respectively,” states the indictment. “As part of the scheme, defendant counseled and caused employees of Midamar and ISA to change labels on beef products, and to fabricate and falsify documents accompanying the beef product shipments for the purpose of making it appear, falsely, that the products originated from a designated approved slaughter facility,” it continues. “The scheme and artifice to defraud was executed with the intent to result in payment of money to Midamar.” An investigation by USDA’s Office of Inspector General and the Internal Revenue Service led to the indictment, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for Northern Iowa. A summary of the charges follows. Pending Counts 18:371 CONSPIRACY TO DEFRAUD THE UNITED STATES with Forfeiture Allegation (1) 21:611(b)(5) and 18:2 FORGERY OF OFFICIAL DEVICE, MARK OR CERTIFICATE (2-8) 18:1343 and 2 FRAUD BY WIRE, RADIO, OR TELEVISION with Forfeiture Allegation (9-15) 18:1957(a) and 2 ENGAGING IN MONETARY TRANSACTIONS with Forfeiture Allegation (16-18) 18:1956(h) MONEY LAUNDERING – POSTAL, INTERSTATE WIRE, RADIO, ETC. (19) Editor’s Note: An update published on Oct. 29 includes comments and suggestions from Midamar Corporation in response to the indictment.