Thirty-one persons were arrested last month in California recycling fraud that may have cost taxpayers $3.5 million in redemptions.
Thirty-one persons in California were arrested in April of this year for committing recycling fraud against California taxpayers. The state’s attorney general estimates that the fraudsters illegally collected $3.5 million in redemption money by hauling in truckloads of cans and bottles from the neighboring states of Arizona and Nevada. They are now detained and charged with conspiracy, grand theft, and unlawful recycling.
“These bands of thieves have been caught red-handed running tons of cans and bottles from across the state’s border and fraudulently collecting money through the California Redemption Value program,” says Attorney General Jerry Brown.
Last year, we wrote about the phenomenal increase in California’s recycling rate for soft drink bottles and cans. Californians recycled an average of 85% of beverage containers in 2009. Beverage bottle recycling has been particularly successful in the state after the California Redemption Value (CRV) was increased to up to 10 cents per bottle in 2007.
Californians can bring in their beverage bottles and aluminum cans to nearby recycling centers and collect the recycling value of these containers. Apparently, the high redemption value of beverage containers in California was also seen by unscrupulous persons as a quick money-making opportunity.
At that time, when the 2009 report was released, the California Department of Conservation was already looking into the possibility of fraud. It was reported that HDPE (see Recycling Symbols) recycling in the state rose by 116% in the second half of 2010 and that the authorities were investigating if fraud was committed. The recent arrests were the result of cooperation between the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and the state’s Attorney General’s office.
“Recycling fraud is a crime against California consumers and we take it very seriously,” said a statement from Margo Reid Brown, director of the state’s CalRecycle program.
The fraudsters, belonging to three separate fraud rings, were arrested in multiple raids last month. They are suspected of importing in millions of pounds of cans and bottles and collecting as much as $1.57 per pound in redemption value from various recycling centers in California. The authorities mentioned an instance when one of the syndicates imported 1.6 million lbs. of redeemable containers from Nevada and stored these in a facility in Montclair.
Attorney General Brown issued this stern warning to criminal elements who may be thinking of targeting the state’s recycling program: “defrauding the state’s recycling program is not a way to make easy money. We are looking for you and you will be caught.”
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