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August 25, 2009

North Country Gazette

Eight Charged In Bottle, Can Redemption Scheme

SUFFOLK COUNTY—Eight men have been arrested on grand larceny charges for their involvement in an elaborate scheme to redeem cans, bottles and other recyclable beverage containers multiple times in a lucrative fraud to steal millions of dollars from Pepsi, Anheuser-Busch, Miller Brewing Company, their wholesalers, and other corporations.

Five of the eight defendants are Long Island retail beverage dealers who accepted, from a New York City recycler, hundreds of thousands of already redeemed bottles and cans to be redeemed again, collecting seven cents for each bottle and can per illegal redemption. 

The arrests were jointly announced by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota, joined by Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.

“The investigation found that, instead of recycling the bottles and cans, Boro Recycling would send them back out onto Long Island to certain soda & beer retailers - their partners in the scheme - who would redeem the cans and bottles again, collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars for another trip through the system,” District Attorney Spota said.  “It’s a profitable perversion of New York’s beverage container recycling law and we suspect it’s been going on for years.”   

Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo said, “This scam siphons money from our State’s already overburdened budget while undermining the environmental protection fostered by the Bottle Bill.  By all indications the alleged corruption being announced today is not limited to Suffolk County.  As part of our efforts, my office has already subpoenaed four companies and we will continue this investigation throughout New York State.”

For each bottle and can illegally re-redeemed, the defendants profited seven cents. 

“If you multiply millions of bottles and cans by seven cents and it is plain to see beverage companies are paying millions of dollars more than they should in deposit fees, said Spota. 

“You have to wonder how much these beverages would cost the consumer when this kind of larceny is removed from the bottle and can redemption system in this state.”

Peter Sidote, 53, of Dix Hills, the owner and operator of Party Time Beverage in Brentwood, is suspected of being the central Long Island broker for the scheme.  Sidote is charged with second degree grand larceny. Sidote would allegedly receive the already redeemed cans and bottles from Boro and then distribute the previously redeemed containers to other complicit beverage dealers, a strategy designed to avoid detection by law enforcement.  

Josephy Luzzi, 60, of Bayside, is the owner and operator of Boro Recycling. Luzzi is charged with second degree grand larceny.  Under his control and direction, beverage dealers were recruited to participate in the illicit scheme to illegally re-redeem bottles and cans.  Investigators believe Luzzi was involved on a day to day basis with every aspect of the illegal operation. 

Robert Grady, 44, of East Stroudsburg, Pa., is an employee of Boro Recycling who allegedly acted as the liaison between Luzzi and Sidote and the other beverage retailers who participated in the scheme.  Grady is also charged with second degree.  Prosecutors say Grady scheduled the deliveries of the already redeemed cans and bottles to Long Island for re-redemption and on many occasions drove the trucks to deliver the contraband himself. 

The other beverage dealer defendants charged with second degree grand larceny and alleged to have participated in the redemption scheme are:

Robert Almes, 48, owner and operator of Islip Cold Beer, 175 Grant Ave., Islip; Kwang Jhony, 42, owner and operator of S&H Distributors, 70 West Suffolk Ave., Central Islip; Joseph Sciara, 44, owner and operator of Bellmore Beverage, 1377 Newbridge Rd., Bellmore, and Michael Lisi, 47, owner and operator of Monarch Beverage, 505 Long Beach Blvd., Long Beach.  Lisi is charged with third degree grand larceny.


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