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Shawn Sawa and Richard Best used a now defunct transloading company for scheme.
January 10, 2024
Shawn Sawa, 47, formerly of Clovis, Calif., has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in stealing millions of dollars’ worth of canola from international food processors, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California announced Monday.
According to court documents, from 2015 through 2017, Sawa and Richard Best stole $4.8 million worth of canola from the food processors. They then sold the canola for a windfall. Sawa and Best carried out the scheme through Best’s now defunct train-to-truck transloading company, Richard Best Transfer Inc. (RBT). A transloading company transfers commodities from one mode of transportation to another mode. The victim food processors sent hundreds of thousands of tons of their canola to RBT for delivery to their customers. Sawa was the manager of a victim food processor’s branch office in Fresno and had a close relationship with Best.
Sawa and Best sold the stolen canola through an acquaintance in Texas who used to work in the livestock feed industry. The acquaintance sold the stolen canola to farms and dairies and distributed the proceeds according to Best’s instructions. This included wire transfers to Sawa, RBT, and Best’s bank accounts. The account that Sawa used was opened in his spouse’s name to try to conceal the scheme.
Throughout the scheme, Sawa and Best caused RBT to email fraudulent inventory reports to the victim food processors representing that RBT had certain amounts of their canola in-stock when, in fact, RBT had significantly lesser amounts. Sawa and Best used the proceeds from the scheme to purchase luxury homes and multiple vehicles, take trips, hire private karate teachers, and cover RBT’s operating expenses, among other expenses.
The case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Barton is prosecuting the case.
Sawa is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 11, 2025, by U.S. District Judge Jennifer L. Thurston. Sawa faces a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court.
Best was also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud. However, the attorney’s office said the charges against him are pending and are only allegations unless he is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
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