FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – A multi-million dollar theft of livestock feed ingredients in Fresno resulted in two people being indicted on multiple counts of fraud, according to the Department of Justice.
Court documents show that from 2015 to 2017, 68-year-old Richard Best from Fresno and 46-year-old Shawn Sawa, formerly of Clovis, stole $4.8 million worth of canola, a product used to make cow’s food from international food processors and sold it on, DOJ officials say.
According to authorities, Best and Sawa carried out the scheme through Best’s now defunct train-to-truck company dedicated to transferring commodities from one mode of transportation to another under the name Richard Best Transfer Inc. (RBT). The victims sent hundreds of thousands of tons of their canola and other commodities to RBT for their customers. Sawa was the manager of one of the victim’s branch offices in Fresno and had a close relationship with Best, the report says.
Officials say both individuals 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. Those instructions included wire transfers to RBT Best and Sawa’s bank accounts. The account that Sawa used was opened in his spouse’s name to try to conceal the scheme.
During these operations, Best and Sawa caused RBT to send fraudulent inventory reports to victims representing that RBT had certain amounts of their canola in stock when, in fact. RBT had significantly lesser amounts. Whenever the victims began to make inquiries about missing canola. Best and Sawa told them that the product had been destroyed by bad weather when it actually had been stolen.
DOJ officials say Best and Sawa used the proceeds from the scheme to cover RBT’s operating expenses, purchase luxury homes and multiple vehicles, take trips, and hire private karate teachers, among other expenses.
If convicted, Best and Sawa could face up to 20 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine for each of the conspiracy and wire fraud counts.