Fugitive who left chicken plant broke is arrested

Associated Press

WORTHINGTON, Minn. -- Two years ago, Tesfaye Mitslal's chicken processing plant flopped, bouncing paychecks for 26 workers. Prosecutors soon filed felony charges against Mitslal, who disappeared. Now authorities are celebrating his arrest.

Mitslal, now 54, was arrested Saturday after the Colorado State Patrol stopped him for speeding near Lamar, Colo. Officers then discovered that a warrant had been out for his arrest since February 2002, when he skipped a court hearing on the charges.

"The whole city needs closure for this," Worthington Director of Public Safety Mike Cumiskey said. "People were depending on checks to pay rent with and buy food with, and I can't imagine having to make due with checks that were worthless."

The 26 employees complained that Mitslal stiffed them on $21,277 in pay when his Awra Doro Inc. processing plant went belly up and closed in April 2001, just four months after it opened.


Worthington police were pleasantly surprised by Mitslal's capture, Cumiskey said.

"We were happy to see it …; super happy," Cumiskey said.

Police had not any received tips about Mitslal's whereabouts since his disappearance, Cumiskey said. There were rumors that Mitslal, a native of Ethiopia, had left the country, but Cumiskey suspected he had returned to the East Coast, where he previously lived. Mitslal told Colorado troopers he lived in Aurora, Colo.

He faces 26 counts of issuing dishonored checks. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment and-or a $10,000 fine.

Now that Mitslal is in custody, the legal battle begins to bring him back and try him in Minnesota. Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore said the first step will be an extradition hearing in Prowers County, Colo., where Mitslal is being held. At the hearing, Mitslal can either waive extradition and return to Nobles County voluntarily, or fight the process and argue to stay in Colorado.

Though no court date has been set yet, the Prowers County District Attorney's office said Monday that Mitslal's earliest appearance could be Thursday.

"We are fully intending extradition," Moore said. "It's a significant bit of unfinished business. ... For the welfare of the victims and the community, it'd be good to get this chapter concluded."

But Moore said it could be difficult to find the 26 people listed in the original complaint, as many may have moved away without leaving forwarding addresses.


After being closed since August 1997, Mitslal purchased the former Campbell Soup Co. plant in March 2000 for a reported $4.5 million. ADI began processing spent hens -- chickens that are past their egg-laying prime -- in February 2001. The company's financial troubles became apparent the next month when ADI fell about $70,000 behind on payments to Worthington Public Utilities. The plant closed that April, and employees were unable to cash their paychecks. Mitslal filed for bankruptcy that October. About 100 creditors filed claims saying ADI owed them more than $3.9 million.

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