SACRAMENTO–California agents arrested six suspects and are searching for a seventh in connection with a large-scale scheme to defraud the state’s bottle and can deposit program.
The group is accused of illegally:
- Cashing in empty beverage containers smuggled from Las Vegas casinos
- Filing fraudulent California Redemption Value (CRV) claims for non-existent material
- Selling previously redeemed bottles and cans back into the system for re-redemption
“California does not tolerate attempts to defraud the Beverage Container Recycling Program of deposits that rightfully belong to California consumers,” CalRecycle Director Rachel Machi Wagoner said. “CalRecycle will continue to work alongside our law enforcement partners within the California Department of Justice to protect money that belongs to Californians.”
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 four-month investigation. During that time, the suspects allegedly brought truckloads of out-of-state empty beverage containers to storage facilities and recycling centers in Southern California to fraudulently redeem the CRV material. Since consumers outside California do not pay CRV deposits on beverage purchases, imported empty beverage containers are not eligible for CRV redemption.
As part of the investigation, Department of Justice agents conducted searches at several Southern California facilities and seized more than $300,000 in cash from California recycling processor West Coast Waste Industries S.A., Inc.
Laszlo Castro Lencse, Antonio Iezza, Jr., Jaime Mosaquites Diaz, Eligio Ortega Dominguez, Geovany Ortega Narcisco, and Gonzalo Cachu Lucatero were arrested and charged with conspiracy, grand theft, and recycling fraud. One suspect, Ivan Dominguez Lopez, remains at large.
- Antonio Iezza, Jr. faces an additional charge of presenting false claims for payment.
- Eligio Ortega Dominguez is additionally charged with receipt of stolen property.
CalRecycle revoked the certification of Antonio Iezza, Jr. and his company, West Coast Waste Industries S.A., Inc.
At a Glance: California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program
Californians have recycled more than 426 billion bottles and cans since the passage of California’s Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act in 1986. The Bottle Bill incentivizes people to recycle 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 or obligated retailers.
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 312 arrests since 2010.
- Enhanced precertification training of recycling center operators to ensure program compliance, 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.
- Monitoring and tracking of imported material reports, submitted by anyone hauling more than 25 pounds of aluminum, bimetal, or plastic, or more than 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 are encouraged to report suspected recycling fraud or bottle redemption violations to CalRecycle’s toll free number (1-800-RECYCLE) or via email at email@example.com.
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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.