This is not the first time that DeCoster's farming operations have been cited for problems. In June 2000, DeCoster became the first person labeled a “habitual violator” of Iowa’s environmental laws, meaning that his business had already been successfully sued at least three times by the Iowa attorney general.
Under Iowa state law, habitual violators can have daily fines quintupled from $5,000 to $25,000 and they are prohibited from expanding their business. Despite this, the Iowa Independent reports, DeCoster has found work-arounds that allow his agro-empire to keep growing.
Fines DeCoster has paid over the years include:
- $1.5 million to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 2003 to resolve charges of sexual harassment and rape by company supervisors, reports Lynda Waddington of the Iowa Independent.
- $2.1 million in 2003, accompanying a guilty plea on charges of knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. (In subsequent years, immigration raids found dozens of undocumented workers.)
- $3.5 million in 1996, for mistreatment of workers at egg farms in Maine, reported The New York Times.