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Different views of slaughterhouse manager offered

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Prosecutors and defense attorneys for the former manager of an Iowa kosher slaughterhouse offered starkly different portraits of the man accused of defrauding a bank Monday in the closing arguments of his nearly monthlong fin...

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Prosecutors and defense attorneys for the former manager of an Iowa kosher slaughterhouse offered starkly different portraits of the man accused of defrauding a bank Monday in the closing arguments of his nearly monthlong financial fraud trial.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan Jr. said Sholom Rubashkin, the former manager of Iowa kosher meatpacking plant Agriprocessors, masterminded a fraud scheme and harbored immigrants at the plant.

But Rubashkin's defense attorney, Guy Cook, told jurors Rubashkin never read the loan agreement with St. Louis-based First Bank and tried to emphasize that Rubashkin was a bumbling businessman who was in over his head.

Rubashkin is on trial on 91 financial fraud charges in U.S. District Court in Sioux Falls, S.D. He has pleaded not guilty.

"This case is very much about control," Deegan told jurors. "The defendant's control over money from customers. The defendant's control over money for cattle providers ... the defendant's control over his workers. And finally, control over the bottom line."

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It was a theme the prosecution emphasized throughout the trial: Rubashkin knowingly defrauded First Bank by offering false invoices for orders that never existed and running a plant that hired illegal immigrants in violation of the loan agreement.

The Postville plant was the site of a major immigration raid in May 2008, when 389 workers were arrested. A second trial on 72 immigration charges is expected to follow the fraud trial.

Cook said Rubashkin never oversaw financial decisions. He also said First Bank knew about the alleged fraud but continued to lend to Agriprocessors anyway.

Cook equated the loan arrangement to a date set up on a Web site in which one party makes false claims, but the other party agrees to a "date" even after discovering the untruth.

Deegan took issue with the assertion that Rubashkin never knew about the fraud, referencing the testimony of former plant controller Yomtov "Toby" Bensasson, who pleaded guilty to one conspiracy charge in August and testified that Rubashkin helped create the false invoices.

"It's ridiculous," Deegan said. "It's a child's excuse. He says: 'Toby (Bensasson) made me do it, and I didn't know it was illegal, and even if I did know it was wrong, I didn't think the bank would care.'"

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