Former Clovis resident Shawn Sawa pled guilty Monday to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for stealing $5 million worth of livestock feed.
Federal investigators charged 47-year-old Sawa with the theft of canola oil from 2015 to 2017, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Sawa and associate Richard Best sold the feed for a windfall.
Best was also charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In a statement to GV Wire last September, Best denied the allegations in a statement provided by his attorney.
Sawa and Best carried out the scheme through the now-closed train-to-truck transportation company Richard Best Transfer Inc. out of Reedley.
Food processors sent hundreds of thousands of tons of canola through RBT for sale to customers.
Stolen Oil Sold in Texas
Sawa was the manager of one of those food processors and had a close relationship with Best. Through RBT, food processors would get false reports of how much canola was in inventory.
The stolen oil was sold through an acquaintance in Texas who worked in the livestock-feed industry, prosecutors said. That person then sent the proceeds back to Sawa, Best, and RBT’s bank accounts.
Sawa and Best used the money to buy luxury homes, vehicles, vacations, hire private karate teachers, and pay for RBT’s expenses, the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated.
Sawa could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced.
The FBI led the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Barton is prosecuting the case.
(Editor’s note: A previous edition of this story incorrectly stated that the theft involved canola oil.)