CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — A former manager at an Iowa slaughterhouse will spend 30 more months in prison for harboring and financially exploiting immigrant workers who were in the U.S. illegally, a federal judge ruled Friday.
U.S. District Judge Linda Reade gave former Agriprocessors Inc. manager Hosam Amara a 41-month prison term, the most recommended under advisory sentencing guidelines. But she said that Amara would get credit for 11 months he has already spent in custody since his arrest in Israel and extradition to the U.S., and she rejected a prosecution request for a longer sentence.
Amara is the latest figure to be sentenced to prison after a May 2008 immigration raid at the Agriprocessors Inc. plant in which 389 workers were arrested. The plant in Postville, in northeastern Iowa, had become the nation's largest kosher slaughterhouse, and the majority of its 1,000 workers had come to the U.S. illegally from Guatemala, Mexico and elsewhere.
Amara, who came to the U.S. from Israel in 1994 and became a U.S. citizen, ran the poultry side of the slaughterhouse. Reading a written statement, Amara said that he took responsibility for and pleaded guilty to harboring immigrants but said that he was simply trying to make a living to support his family.
Reade said that Amara facilitated the widespread hiring of "undocumented alien workers," took cash payments in exchange for hiring 15 such employees, and profited from a scheme in which he and his associates sold used cars to them.
"He made money off of their plight," she said.
Amara, 49, also helped workers obtain false identification documents and fled to Israel after learning that he was under federal investigation following the 2008 raid, she said. Israeli authorities arrested Amara in 2011, and he was returned to the U.S. last year after unsuccessfully challenging his extradition.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Deegan asked Reade to consider a sentence "substantially above" the 41-month guideline. He said that Amara was a key player in a scheme to harbor immigrants that was "about as pervasive as the court is going to find." Amara repeatedly took advantage of vulnerable workers who he knew could not get bank loans, buy cars on their own or complain to police about sexual mistreatment, he said.