Family Charged in $7.6 Million Bottle-and-Can Recycling Scheme

Office of Public Affairs
For Immediate Release: July 25, 2023
News Release #2023-06
Media Contact: Lance Klug
916-341-6293 |

Department of Justice
916-210-6000 |

OAKLAND – Eight family members who run recycling centers in Riverside County face felony charges in connection to a $7.6 million, multi-state recycling fraud investigation. Agents believe the suspects illegally smuggled 178 tons of empty beverage containers from Arizona into Riverside County to defraud California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program.

“California will not tolerate fraud against our recycling deposit system that has kept nearly a half-trillion bottles and cans from being littered or landfilled in our state,” said CalRecycle Director Rachel Machi Wagoner. “CalRecycle’s partnership with the California Department of Justice (DOJ) is working to stop criminals and protect funds that belong to Californians.”

“California’s recycling program is funded by consumers and helps protect our environment and our communities,” said Attorney General Rob Bonta. “Those who try to undermine its integrity through criminal operations will be held accountable. I am grateful to my team of diligent investigators, and to our partners at CalRecycle, for uncovering this fraud scheme and for working together to protect funds that belong to California consumers who recycle.”

In 2022, DOJ launched an investigation into several Riverside County recycling centers. During an eight-month period, agents found the operators illegally redeemed $7.6 million on aluminum cans and plastic bottles smuggled from Arizona to sites in Riverside County.

Today, DOJ’s Bureau of Investigation Recycle Fraud Team filed charges against the eight defendants and served search warrants on six locations, which resulted in the seizure of

$1,061,499 and additional material.

All suspects will be booked at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Jail and are

presumed innocent unless or until proven guilty.

A copy of the criminal complaint can be found here.

CalRecycle oversees California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program that incentivizes recycling at privately-owned centers with a 5 or 10-cent return on eligible beverage containers. Since consumers outside of California do not pay California Redemption Value (CRV) deposits on beverage purchases, those containers are not eligible for CRV redemption.

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 483 billion bottles and cans since
  • 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
    • Certified processor oversight, including load inspections of recycling center
    • 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
    • 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

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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.