Recycling Fraud Ring Busted

Published: Thursday, September 13, 2018 - 6:44am
Updated: Thursday, September 13, 2018 - 9:12am
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Heather van Blokland/KJZZ
Recycling plant

Thousands of pounds of empty beverage containers were intercepted this summer while being smuggled into California from Arizona and Nevada to defraud the state's recycling program, authorities said Wednesday.

The state Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery said agents confiscated 56,000 pounds of material worth an estimated $82,853 in potential California Redemption Value or CRV.

Eight people were arrested in the law enforcement actions at Winterhaven and Needles on the California-Arizona state line and in Barstow, in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

California encourages recycling by requiring consumers to pay deposits of 5 cents to 10 cents on certain beverage containers that can be redeemed at certified recycling centers. Out-of-state containers are not eligible for the CRV refunds.

The anti-fraud crackdown also involved the state Department of Justice and the Department of Food and Agriculture.

"CalRecycle works alongside its law enforcement partners in an effort to protect every nickel and dime Californians pay at the cash register when purchasing CRV beverages," CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline said in a statement.

The most recent seizure occurred Aug. 15 in the Imperial County community of Winterhaven, where a Yuma, Arizona resident who owns a recycling center was arrested while bringing 907 pounds of empty aluminum beverage containers into California, officials said.

CalRecycle said that operation is suspected of having smuggled 468,000 pounds of aluminum over three years.

The other seizures occurred earlier in San Bernardino County.

In mid-July, a two-day operation at state line checkpoints in and near Needles netted five vehicles carrying 33,639 pounds of aluminum and 13,623 pounds of plastic containers from Nevada, the agency said. Six people were arrested.

In June, a semi-truck allegedly carrying beverage containers from Las Vegas was stopped in Barstow. The driver was arrested and agents seized 1,480 pounds of aluminum and 6,260 pounds of plastic containers.

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