Eight Arrested in Summer Recycling Fraud Crackdowns: Border Busts Prevent Nearly $83,000 in Illegal Redemptions of Out-of-State Containers

Office of Public Affairs
For Immediate Release: September 12, 2018
News Release #2018-19
Media Contact: Lance Klug

SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery is announcing the arrest of eight suspects accused of attempting to defraud the state’s Beverage Container Recycling Program by smuggling out-of-state empty beverage containers for illegal California Redemption Value redemptions.

Working in partnership with the California Department of Justice, the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and other state and local partners, CDOJ Recycling Fraud Team agents recovered more than 56,000 pounds of material worth an estimated $82,853 in potential CRV.

“CalRecycle works alongside its law enforcement partners in an effort to protect the nickels and dimes Californians pay at the cash register when purchasing CRV–labeled beverages,” CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline said. “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 diligently to disrupt these schemes and protect public funds.”

Winterhaven (Imperial County) Recycling Fraud Border Bust

CDOJ photo of evidence seized during an Aug 15, 2018 arrest in Winterhaven, CAOn Aug. 15, 2018, fraud team agents arrested an Arizona recycling center owner suspected of smuggling empty beverage containers into California in an attempt to defraud California’s CRV fund.

After a two-month investigation, agents observed Mary Simpson, 64, of Yuma, Ariz., attempting to enter California with materials collected at her “Cash 4 Cans” business. Agents detained Simpson at the Winterhaven CDFA border protection station, where she admitted to transporting the containers into California in an effort to collect fraudulent CRV.

Agents seized 907 pounds of aluminum empty beverage containers with an estimated CRV value of $1,451. Based on Simpson’s statements and evidence seized from her vehicle, it’s believed Simpson imported approximately 468,000 pounds of aluminum worth an estimated $748,800 in CRV into California over the past three years.

Needles (San Bernardino County) Recycling Fraud Border Checkpoint Arrests 

CDOJ photos of evidence seized and vehicles involved in a July 16-17, 2018 recycling fraud border checkpoint interdiction in Needles, CAOn July 16 and 17, 2018, CalRecycle, CDFA, and CDOJ conducted operations at the CDFA border checkpoint in Needles and a temporary border checkpoint near Needles.

Over the two-day operation, suspects in five vehicles were found to be transporting out-of-state empty beverage containers from Nevada to California with intent to defraud California’s CRV fund.

Agents arrested Jose Ramirez, 25, of Duarte; Juan Higuera, 37, of Buckeye, Ariz.; Romeo Turcios, 49, of Los Angeles; Ricardo Flores, 57, of Pomona; Mario Tolentino, 37, of Las Vegas, Nev.; and Rafael Escobar, 57, of Los Angeles on charges including felony recycling fraud, attempted grand theft, and conspiracy.

Agents seized 33,639 pounds of aluminum and 13,623 pounds of plastic empty beverage containers with an estimated CRV value of $71,260

Barstow (San Bernardino County) Recycling Fraud Border Bust

CDOJ photos of evidence seized after a June 6, 2018, recycling fraud border

On June 6, 2018, agents with CDOJ’s Recycling Fraud Team received information that a semi-truck filled with empty beverage containers from a Las Vegas construction yard was being transported into California for fraudulent CRV redemptions. Agents followed the vehicle on a route designed to illegally circumvent the CDFA border checkpoint in Yermo, Calif.

California Highway Patrol initiated a traffic stop near the L Street off-ramp of I-15 in Barstow, and officers arrested Moises Morgan-Gomez, 33, of Las Vegas, Nev., on charges of felony recycling fraud, attempted grand theft, and conspiracy.

Agents seized 1,480 pounds of aluminum and 6,260 pounds of plastic empty beverage containers with an estimated CRV value of $10,142.

Upon conviction, felony recycling fraud and related crimes carry a potential sentence of six months to three years behind bars in addition to fines, court-ordered restitution, and possible loss of license and/or vehicle.

At a Glance: CalRecycle’s Recycling Fraud Prevention Measures

California’s Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act incentivizes recycling through a California Redemption Value (CRV) fee paid by California consumers at the time of purchase and refunded upon return of the empty beverage containers to CalRecycle-certified recycling centers. Because the fee is not paid on beverages purchased outside the state, those containers are not eligible for CRV redemption.

In addition to CalRecycle’s interagency agreements with CDOJ and CDFA, CalRecycle aggressively combats fraud and illicit payments through enhanced precertification training of recycling center owners; probationary reviews of recycling centers; oversight of certified processors; monitoring and tracking of imported materials; risk assessment of daily claims for reimbursement; daily load limits; application of prepayment controls; and post-payment reviews and investigations.

For more information contact, the Office of Public Affairs, opa@calrecycle.ca.gov

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CalRecycle provides oversight of California solid waste handling and recycling programs to protect human health, develop sustainable solutions that conserve resources, and reduce greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change.