Agents break up suspected $10 million Arizona-to-California bottle and can recycling fraud scheme

Office of Public Affairs
For Immediate Release: May 25, 2022
News Release #2022-05
Media Contact: Lance Klug
916-341-6293 |

Department of Justice
916-210-6000 |


Six people face felony recycling fraud and grand theft charges connected to a suspected multi-state scheme to defraud California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program. Investigators believe the suspects illegally smuggled over nine tons of empty bottles and cans from Arizona to the Los Angeles area to fraudulently redeem recycling deposits. Since consumers outside of California do not pay California Redemption Value (CRV) deposits on beverage purchases, those containers are not eligible for CRV redemption.

“CalRecycle works alongside our partners at the Department of Justice to root out fraud and safeguard the program that helped California recycle 454 billion bottles and cans and reduce trash pollution across the state,” CalRecycle Director Rachel Machi Wagoner said. “Beverage deposits belong to Californians and the state will continue to actively protect these funds.”

“When individuals skirt California’s recycling laws, California consumers are hurt in the process,” said Attorney General Bonta. “The California Redemption program is an important tool in our efforts to encourage recycling, reduce waste, and address climate change. My office will continue to fiercely defend California’s programs and resources — and we will hold bad actors who defraud our state accountable.”

The California Department of Justice’s Division of Law Enforcement, with technical assistance from CalRecycle, uncovered evidence of a multi-state recycling fraud ring over the course of a roughly six-month investigation. The suspects allegedly brought truckloads of aluminum cans and plastic bottles from Arizona to Los Angeles area recycling centers to illegally redeem more than $10 million in CRV deposits. A copy of the complaint can be found here.

At a Glance: California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program

The Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act of 1986 set a financial value on beverage containers to encourage recycling and reduce litter.

  • Californians have recycled more than 454 billion bottles and cans since 1986.
  • CalRecycle safeguards California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program through:
    • Interagency agreements with the California Department of Justice and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to combat recycling fraud, resulting in over 357 arrests since 2010.
    • Enhanced precertification training of recycling center operational requirements to deter fraud, including documentation requirements and enforcement of daily load limits.
    • Probationary reviews and site inspections of recycling centers.
    • Certified processor oversight, including load inspections of recycling center shipments.
    • Tracking of imported material reports, submitted by anyone hauling more than 25 pounds of aluminum, bimetal, or plastic, or over 250 pounds of glass into California.
    • Internal monitoring and risk assessment of daily claims for reimbursement and post-payment reviews/investigations of Beverage Container Recycling Program participants.

Californians can report suspected recycling fraud or bottle redemption violations to CalRecycle by calling 1-866-CANLOAD (226-5623) or emailing

For more information contact, the Office of Public Affairs,