A former operations manager at Midamar Corp. who was fired in 2012 has been cooperating with federal prosecutors as part of a plea deal that may keep him out of prison. The Associated Press reports that Phil Payne, formerly with Midamar and now an employee of Iowa Premium Beef, has told prosecutors he participated in efforts to export beef to Indonesia and Malaysia that did meet those countries’ requirements.

Payne pleaded guilty Monday to conspiracy to make and deliver false certificates and writings, marking the first conviction in the federal government’s lengthy investigation of Midamar. Two other charges will be deferred under a pretrial diversion agreement with Payne. Midamar’s founder, William Aossey, and his two sons have been charged with several charges related to misleading export practices.

According to court documents, Payne admitted that, from 2007 to 2009, he directed Midamar workers to repackage beef products from a slaughterhouse that wasn’t approved for export to Malaysia and Indonesia to make them appear they came from an approved plant. That scheme involved 22 shipments totaling 124,000 pounds of beef, the document shows.

He also admitted that as demand grew for halal beef, Midamar had difficulty finding enough product prepared by Muslim slaughtermen as the company advertised, so it supplemented purchases with kosher beef slaughtered by rabbis at a Minnesota plant. All cattle at that plant were killed using a stunning device, despite Midamar’s claim on its website that the practice wasn’t allowed for halal slaughter.

Midamar spokesman Sara Sayed said, “Midamar’s halal processes are vetted and approved by scholars and industry leaders the world over,” when asked about Payne’s plea. “We will continue to defend the integrity of the company.”

Source: Associated Press via CBS Minnesota