May 7, 2010
California nabs 31 in $3.5 million recycling redemption scam
In a cross-agency operation that involved investigations crossing three state lines, 31 individuals were arrested in connection to three beverage container redemption fraud rings which reportedly took in an excess of $3.5 million.
Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. made the announcement yesterday with the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) about the operations that caught the three groups — one bringing in beverage containers from Yuma, Arizona, one from the Phoenix area and the largest of the three from Las Vegas.
"Recycling fraud is a crime against California consumers and we take it very seriously," said CalRecycle Director Margo Reid Brown. "Our inspectors work closely with state and local law enforcement to root out and prosecute criminals who steal the money used to repay Californians and support our state's recycling programs. These arrests are evidence that recycling fraud will not be tolerated."
The Las Vegas group was allegedly bringing in approximately 5,000 pounds of empty beverage containers twice-weekly in large rental trucks and shipped to a storage facility in Montclair, California where the containers were distributed to a network of locals who redeemed them. Over the course of roughly three years, this group — of which 15 suspects were arrested — defrauded the state to the tune of an estimated $2.5 million.
The operation out of the Phoenix area brought beverage containers — many of which contained sand to add weight — defrauded the Golden State's CRV program to the tune of $1 million and resulted in 12 arrests.
Apparently, the fraud was not without scofflaws on the other side of the redemption desk, as the last operation allegedly worked with a recycling center in California, ACE Recycler in San Diego, the owner and operator of which, Michael Barshak, was one of four arrested in connection to the case.
The investigations resulting in the arrests of the 31 individuals were conducted by the Attorney General's Division of Law Enforcement/Bureau of Investigation and Intelligence (DLE-BII) Major Crimes Team and CalRecycle, with assistance from a cavalcade of additional law enforcement agencies including: The California Highway Patrol, the offices of the San Bernardino and Riverside County Sheriffs, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the United States Marshals Service and other Department of Justice enforcement teams.