By Eric Freedman
A federal judge in Ohio has sentenced an illegal slaughterhouse operator to 33 months behind bars for dumping animal blood and other “bodily fluids” into a waterway that empties into Beaver Creek and Lake Erie in violation of the Clean Water Act.
Amin Salem’s prison sentence also covers charges of money laundering and commercial slaughtering of animals without a permit at a farm he owned in Elyria, the U.S. Attorney’s office announced. He pled guilty earlier to the charges.
Two other men have also pled guilty in the case. One was sentenced earlier, and a third is expected to be sentenced in September, according to court records.
“Salem operated an unregulated slaughterhouse and polluted a stream by dumping animal blood and other fluids. Salem then laundered the profits from the illegal slaughterhouse operation at Cleveland-area gas stations” he owned, the U.S. Attorney’s office said
Salem had previously been convicted of conspiracy, fraud and money laundering in an earlier case, the indictment said.
“Salem’s blatant disregard for the rules and regulations governing our food and water supply put the health of countless people at risk, all so he could make a quick profit,” U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said in a statement.
Three months before federal agents searched Salem’s farm in March 2016, he had a drain installed running from his barn to Engle Ditch. “The blood and bodily fluids ran out the drain and into the creek,” according to a court filing.
A sentencing memorandum filed by his defense lawyer said Amin was unaware that he was acting illegally until the search, “and he never slaughtered an animal or sold its meat again. The very next day Salem had that drain cemented.”
The Environmental Protection Agency’s criminal investigation unit said the defendants had “blatantly disregarded environmental laws by discharging animal waste directly into a local stream.”
And IRS Criminal Investigation said Salem tried to hide profits from the illegal sale of meat through his legitimate gas station bank accounts, but the IRS, EPA and federal, state and local agencies “unraveled this money laundering scheme.”
The grand jury accused Salem of slaughtering at least 400 lambs and goats weighing about 25,000 pounds at two sites in Elyria. The meat was sold commercially to restaurants or used personally between September 2014 and March 2016, the indictment said.
The indictment said Salem sold uninspected halal meat through Cleveland-area gas stations he owned.
“Proceeds from the sales of the meat were deposited into gas station bank accounts in an attempt to conceal their source and further facilitate the illegal slaughtering operation,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
More than $695,000 went into banks accounts for one Cleveland gas station, including about $88,000 coming from illegally sold meat, the indictment said.
Salem’s son Mohamed Salem, who is awaiting sentencing before U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson, managed his father’s gas stations, the indictment said. His July 2 sentencing date has been postponed until the fall, a court file shows.
The third defendant, Zahran Al-Qadan, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to launder money stemming from the purchase and resale of illegally slaughtered meat through his bakery, court records show. The court placed him on probation for two years, including four months of home confinement.