A man who used to live in Clovis pleaded guilty in federal court on Monday for his role in stealing nearly $5 million worth of canola.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California announced the guilty plea on Monday.
The backstory: Shawn Sawa, 47, formerly of Clovis stole $4.8 million worth of canola from food processors with Richard Best.
- They carried out the scheme through Best’s former train-to-truck transloading company, Richard Best Transfer.
- Food processors sent hundreds of thousands of tons of their canola to Richard Best Transfer for delivery to customers.
- Sawa worked for one of the victim food processors as a manager in Fresno and had a close relationship with Best.
- They sold the stolen canola through an acquaintance in Texas, who then sold the canola to farms and dairies and distributed the proceeds according to Best’s instructions, including to Sawa’s bank account. Sawa opened the bank account in his spouse’s name to try to conceal the scheme.
- They used fraudulent inventory reports to the food processors representing that Richard Best Transfer had higher amounts of their canola in stock than they actually did.
What we’re watching: Sawa, who pleaded guilty for conspiracy to commit wire fraud, will be sentenced on Aug. 11, 2025 and faces a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
- While Best was also charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and wire fraud, the charges are pending and he is presumed innocent.