SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A former Iowa kosher slaughterhouse manager accused of defrauding a bank was incompetent and in over his head, a plant employee testified Monday.
Chaim Abrahams, a purchasing manager at Agriprocessors Inc., testified for the defense during Sholom Rubashkin's federal fraud trial in U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Abrahams, who still works at the Postville, Iowa, plant, also testified that understaffing led to sloppiness in the plant's operation.
Rubashkin is charged with 91 counts of financial fraud. His attorneys argue the alleged fraud at the former Agriprocessors Inc. plant was the result of incompetence, not corruption.
The defense began its case after the prosecution rested Monday morning.
Abrahams said Rubashkin and his brother Heshy had frequent screaming matches about the plant.
"Unfortunately, in front of many of us, there was constant fighting," Abrahams said. "You would rarely see half a minute pass before you'd hear shouting. It was painful to watch."
He said Sholom Rubashkin "was always screaming and making people crazy and trying to get them to stop spending money, to look for ways to save money."
By contrast, Heshy Rubashkin pushed to expand the plant, Abrahams said.
Agriprocessors was the site of an immigration raid in May 2008 in which 389 illegal workers were arrested. The raid gutted one-third of the plant's work force and forced it into bankruptcy.
The plant was bought by a Canadian businessman and reopened under the name Agri Star.
The defense also called Bill Heter, a farmer who testified that he had a strong relationship with Rubashkin and sold the plant 7,000 head of cattle without any problems.
Abraham Roth, an accountant and Rubashkin family friend, testified that St. Louis-based First Bank Business Capital likely knew about illegal activities at the plant and looked the other way because its loan arrangement with Rubashkin was profitable.
The bank issued a $35 million line of credit to the plant to keep it afloat. Bank officials allege that Rubashkin denied knowing about illegal workers and inflated sales invoices to collect more money.
"It was impossible for (the bank's) auditor to miss this," Roth said. "I'm convinced they saw it, but it wasn't important to the bank."