The FBI is investigating a northwest Iowa business. The agency will acknowledge its agents searched the Sioux Automation Center plant, in Sioux Center, on Monday. They won't say much more.
Outside of that business, unmarked federal vehicles were camped out for hours. Federal investigators say they were there to search the facility. Neighbors say several vehicles remained at the plant overnight.
"We felt that it just was out of place, considering the cooperative nature and the ongoing communication," said Ron Hulshof.
Ron Hulshof is the president of Sioux Automation. The company makes replacement parts for farming equipment. He called the raid "a bizarre overreaction to a civil issue." Hulshof said he's been having discussions with investigators since February about changes to the company retirement plan.
"After years of consultation and consideration, decided that it was right for the company to terminate the plan, and we followed all of the steps to do so," said Hulshof.
Employees from the main plant told us they were working as they normally would on Monday afternoon, when a shift supervisor told them to leave. When they began packing up at a normal pace, the supervisor told them they had to leave now. Hulshof said, after all his discussions with investigators, the raid came as a shock.
"To then all of a sudden for them to decide that evidently wasn't a good enough communication for them," said Hulshof.
Once the employees exited the building, they tell us they saw about a dozen agents from the U.S. Department of Labor and the F-B-I. One described the scene, by saying, "There were guns and handcuffs and the whole bit." Hulshof said that's a bit exaggerated.
"It wasn't in any way something that was not civil and handled professionally," said Hulshof.
Hulshof pled guilty in 1994 to misapplying bank funds. He said that issue should not be relevant now.
"I'd certainly hope that after 20 years that's not on anyone's mind, as we consider a matter like we're talking about here," said Hulshof.
The employees were locked out well into the afternoon, and at one point, some employees went to another plant. But, they soon had to leave, too, because the investigation spread to that plant.
"Although the investigation lingered into Tuesday morning, the owner is confident that the employees will be back at work Wednesday.
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