A businessman from Iowa was convicted on Monday of wrongly claiming that beef exported to Malaysia and Indonesia by his company was halal.
Bill Aossey Jr, the founder of the Midamar Corp, a Cedar Rapids-based company that is considered a pioneer in the sale of halal meat and food products, was convicted by a federal jury in Cedar Rapids on charges of conspiracy, making false statements on export certificates and wire fraud, the Associated Press reported.
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The 73-year-old is also a longtime leader in the city's relatively large Muslim community.
After the verdict, Aossey was held in federal custody. According to Assistant US Attorney Rich Murphy, Aossey may face five or more years in prison.
Prosecutors disclosed that the 73-year-old told his employees to lie about the origin of their products so that they could export them to Malaysia and Indonesia from 2007 to 2010. Both the countries have very strict slaughter standards and they limit imports to only those slaughterhouses which are certified as providers of halal meat.
The products that were being sent to the two countries came from a Minnesota slaughterhouse, PM beef, which was not approved by them. Aossey told his employees to remove the PM beef tags from the meat and replace them with J F O’Neill Packing Co, which a certified slaughterhouse for halal meat.
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The businessman confessed to changing the tags but maintained that he was unaware that his actions were criminal.
Aossey’s attorney, Haytham Faraj, said he would appeal. He further said that even though Aossey had confessed to the misrepresentation, the customers were satisfied with the meat because PM Beef’s slaughtering methods were considered halal.
A US Department of Agriculture inspector testified that such labeling violations were of a serious nature because they could lead to countries blocking all beef imports from the US.
The company and Aossey's two sons, Midamar directors Jalal and Yahya "Bill" Aossey, are also awaiting trial as part of the yearlong investigation. They have pleaded not guilty to allegations that Midamar sold millions in beef to customers overseas that didn't follow the halal practices promised in its labeling and advertising.
Aossey’s attorney, Faraj, said that his client "a nice old man" who was known in the community for his generosity.
However, during the hearing on Monday, prosecutors were trying to link Aossey to another case in which four suspects were charged with using Midamar’s shipping facilities to smuggle weapons to Lebanon.
Faraj said Aossey was unaware of the weapons and shouldn't face "guilt by association.
This article originally appeared on ABC NEWS
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