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Turlock man convicted of nut scheme

POSTED August 30, 2011 7:41 p.m.

A former plant manager at an area nut processing plant has pled guilty to cheating growers and processors out of money and property.

Robert Morris Adams, 45, of Turlock pled guilty in federal court on Monday to conspiring to commit mail and bank fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted the case.

According to the plea agreement, Adams and other co-defendants caused almonds to be stolen and diverted from almond growers, hullers, and processors, and caused the almonds to be sold for the benefit of the defendants. In some cases, the defendants also caused a nut processor to enter into fictitious purchases of "ghost loads" of nuts that did not actually exist.

In order to carry out the scheme, the defendants used fake names, fictitious identities, and the names of actual persons whose identities were used without the person’s knowledge or permission.

Adams also admitted that the defendants caused certain payment checks from a nut processor to be sent by U.S. mail to a post office box obtained in the name of a nominee, and caused the checks to be cashed and/or deposited into a bank account in the name of a nominee. In some cases, Adams and his co-defendants caused federally-insured financial institutions to negotiate the checks based upon forged endorsements.

 

Adams admitted that he and his co-defendants caused the Merced County nut processor at which Adams was the plant manager to pay approximately $1.25 million for stolen and diverted nuts that did not belong to the defendants and for fictitious shipments of nuts that were never delivered. Adams admitted receiving approximately $425,000 in proceeds from the scheme.

Co-defendant Randal Burtis pleaded guilty on June 24, to conspiring to commit mail fraud and bank fraud. Co-defendant Jason Espinola pleaded guilty on July 21, to bank fraud. Burtis and Espinola are scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 16. The remaining defendant, Ronald John Salado, is set for trial on Oct. 31.

Adams is scheduled to be sentenced on Dec. 16, by U.S. District Judge Lawrence J. O’Neill, in Fresno. He faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. The actual sentence, however, will be determined at the discretion of the court.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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