Recycling Fraud Operation Nets 8 Arrests

Agents working alongside the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery arrested eight people this summer for allegedly attempting to smuggle out-of-state empty beverage containers into California to cash them in for money back.

The fraud team agents said they recovered more than 56,000 pounds of material worth an estimated $82,853 in potential CRV.

The operation was conducted in partnership with the California Department of Justice and the California Department of Food and Agriculture and other state and local partners, according to the recycling fraud team.

“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,” said CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline. “Those attempting to cash in on out-of-state containers and steal CRV funds from California consumers should know we have agents and staff working around the clock to disrupt these schemes and protect public funds.”

Fraud team agents arrested an Arizona recycling center owner on Aug. 15 on suspicion of smuggling empty beverage containers into California to defraud California’s CRV fund, according to a CalRecycle spokesman.

A two-month investigation revealed 64-year-old Mary Simpson was trying to enter California with materials collected at her Yuma-based “Cash 4 Cans” business, according to CalRecycle.

A CalRecycle spokesman said agents detained Simpson at the Winterhaven border station where she admitted to transporting the containers into California in an attempt to collect fraudulent CRV funds.

Agents seized 907 pounds of empty aluminum beverage containers with an estimated CRV value of $1,451. CalRecycle believes Simpson imported approximately 468,000 pounds of aluminum worth an estimated $748,800 in CRV funds into California over the past three years.

CalRecycle spokesman Lance Klug said Simpson faces a maximum penalty of up to six months to three years behind bars in addition to fines, court-ordered restitution, and loss of license, if convicted for felony recycling fraud.

Another two-day operation in Needles in San Bernardino County yielded 33,639 pounds of aluminum and 13,623 pounds of empty plastic beverage containers with a combined estimated CRV value of $71,260.

The July 16 and 17 checkpoint arrests were conducted by agents with CalRecycle, California Department of Justice, and California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Agents arrested six suspects on suspicion of felony recycling fraud, attempted grand theft and conspiracy.

California Highway Patrol stopped a semi-truck in June filled with empty beverage containers from a Las Vegas construction yard. Agents followed the vehicle on a route designed to illegally circumvent the border checkpoint in Yermo, California.

In Barstow, they seized 6,260 pounds of empty plastic beverage containers with an estimated CRV value of $10,142, and arrested a 33-year-old man.

A CalRecycle spokesman said Nevada and Arizona do not have a deposit program like California does. In those states, consumers may receive scrap value of the material.

In California, consumers pay a nickel or a dime at the cash register, depending on the container size, and you get that nickel or dime back when you take empty beverage containers to a certified recycling center.

Consumers who bought the beverages in California can legally receive the California Redemption Value, which is 5 cents for containers less than 24 ounces and 10 cents for containers 24 ounces or larger.

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