On December 19, 2011, in Fresno, California, Randal Alfred Burtis, of Patterson; Robert Morris Adams, of Turlock; and Jason Matthew Espinola, of Hughson, were sentenced for their roles in a scheme to defraud almond growers and nut processors of money and property from August 2000 to October 2007. Burtis was sentenced to 34 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $3.2 million in restitution; Adams was sentenced to 45 months in prison and ordered to pay more than $1.1 million in restitution; and Espinola was sentenced to seven months in prison and ordered to pay $159,076 in restitution. According to court documents, Burtis and Adams conspired with others to steal almonds from nut growers and businesses in the nut industry and to sell the almonds under false names. Burtis and Adams admitted that they caused a nut processor to enter into purchases of “ghost loads” of nuts that did not actually exist. The conspirators received payments in the false names for these sales, negotiated many of the checks through banks using forged endorsements, and distributed the proceeds among themselves. Espinola admitted in his guilty plea that he participated in part of the scheme from approximately 2000 to 2002 as a nominee grower on certain fictitious contracts.
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