UPDATE: Jury deliberations began at about 1 p.m. Friday, but the jury did not reach any verdicts before adjourning until 9 a.m. Monday. Halal beef exporter William Aossey Jr. took the witness stand in his own defense Thursday in the federal trial over his role in an alleged Halal beef export scheme. The 73-year-old Aossey, who founded Cedar Rapids, IA-based Midamar Corporation in 1974, tried to persuade the jury that he did not see his conduct as criminal, but rather as minor labeling infractions. He admitted changing the establishment number for PM Beef in Windom, MN, to the number assigned by USDA to the O’Neill Packing Co. in Omaha. The change was made because one establishment number was approved for export to Malaysia and Indonesia while the other was not. Aossey denied committing wire fraud or money laundering, but he basically admitted removing labels and changing establishment numbers as part of a scheme to falsify export documents. While he did not see it as criminal, Aossey also said he acted on his own so there was no conspiracy. Government attorneys wrapped up their case Thursday morning after a rapid succession of witnesses, concluding with an IRS agent who testified that payments for the 22 shipments involved were made by wire transfers. The transactions involved Halal beef exports that occurred between 2007-10. Aossey is charged with 19 counts, including conspiracy to make false statements and misbranding, mail and wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and lying on federal export certificates. The case could go to the jury as early as today. A second group of defendants, including two of Aossey’s sons, Midamar, and Islamic Services of America (ISA), are scheduled to go on trial separately later this summer.
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