Ahead of the yet-to-be scheduled sentencing of the defendants, the government wants to be relieved of the burden of notifying individual victims of a scheme that altered and falsified the true USDA establishment numbers on beef products exported from the United States. Government attorneys have asked the U.S. District Court for Northern Iowa to allow them to use the Internet and media outlets to notify victims of the Halal beef shuffle leading to the jury convictions of William B. Aossey Jr. and plea bargains with his sons Jalel and William “Yahya” Aossey, along with their Cedar Rapids, IA-based Midamar Corp. and its associated Islamic Services of America (ISA), Changing out USDA establishment numbers allowed beef products that would not have otherwise been accepted for importation to the Muslim nations of Indonesia and Malaysia to be accepted over Halal restrictions imposed by those countries. “The restrictions existed to help ensure that only meat originating from slaughter facilities that met strict religious slaughter protocols established by each respective country would be permitted into those countries,” explains Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard L. Murphy. “This was important because, to comply with their Muslim faith, the largely Muslim populations of Malaysia and Indonesia required meat that had been slaughtered in accordance with the established (Halal) standards.” Murphy says that “the scheme to defraud involved certifying meat as having been slaughtered by a Muslim slaughter man, when it had not been so slaughtered. The schedule also involved selling meat that often had been so slaughtered. The scheme also involved selling meat that often had been slaughtered contrary to the strict Halal standards represented by Midamar and ISA on their websites and elsewhere.” He adds that it means customers and consumers worldwide relied on those ISA certifications and representations by both ISA and Midamar. Almost anyone from Malaysia’s Muslim population of about 18 million or Indonesia’s Muslim population of about 203 million might be able to claim victim status under the 2004 Crime Victim’s Rights Act in the U.S. The act requires the Justice Department to put its best efforts toward notifying crime victims of their right to “be heard” during public proceedings in the district court, including at sentencing. So-called alternative notification plans have been used in other criminal proceedings involving food safety where the numbers of victims are known to run into the thousands. The elder Aossey founded both Midamar Corp. and ISA to build a Halal supply chain from the heartland of Iowa. He was the first person charged in the case, which went to a jury trial last July that convicted him on 15 of 18 charges. He was detained upon conviction and his request for a new trial was denied. About three months after Aossey’s original indictment, sons Jalel and Yahya Aossey, Midamar Corp, and ISA were charged with 92 counts. Before a second trial got underway, however, Midamar Corp., ISA, and the Aossey brothers all reached plea agreements with the government. Midamar, ISA, and Jalel Aossey have each pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy, and Yahya Aossey pleaded guilty to two counts of selling misbranded meat. Midamar Corp. and ISA have already been ordered to pay a forfeiture judgment of $600,000. Pre-sentence investigative reports are in and there have been some defendant challenges. All that remains before sentencing is the time needed to carrying out the victim notification order and defendant challenges to the pre-sentence investigative reports. Also waiting to be sentenced is Omaha-based ConAgra after the company reached a plea agreement with the government on a single misdemeanor violation of the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in the 2006-07 Salmonella Tennessee outbreak traced to its Sylvester, GA, peanut butter plant. Last June, U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands ordered the government to conduct a thorough search for consumers sickened by ConAgra’s Peter Pan peanut butter. ConAgra has agreed to pay fines and forfeitures totaling $11.2 million in the Peter Pan case, but the sentencing remains.
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