California agents arrested nine suspects in a move to dismantle an organized recycling fraud ring that stretched from Phoenix to Los Angeles. The multi-state network of buyers, sellers, baggers, loaders and drivers are believed to be responsible for smuggling semi-truck loads of ineligible out-of-state containers into the state for fraudulent redemption at multiple Southern California recycling centers.
“Recycling fraud is a serious crime with real consequences for the offenders,” said CalRecycle Acting Director Ken DaRosa. “CalRecycle tackles this problem through an effective collaboration with law enforcement partners who are committed to finding those who would attempt to defraud the state.”
California’s Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act incentivizes recycling 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 state-certified recycling centers. Because the fee is not paid on beverages purchased outside the state, those containers are not eligible for CRV redemption.
“The CRV recycling program is a publicly-funded program meant to better our environment and benefit our communities,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “Individuals who cheat the program cheat their fellow Californians. Losing a valuable service which reduces landfill waste is not an option. At the California Department of Justice, we continue to investigate recycling fraud and hold perpetrators accountable.”
During the months-long investigation, the defendants allegedly brought truckloads of nonredeemable material from Arizona to storage facilities and recycling centers in Southern California in order to redeem the material for money and defraud California’s CRV fund. Drivers deliberately took a long, circuitous route in order to avoid inspection by the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The defendants are Raymundo Montoya, Sergio Hernandez, Ignacio Razo, Marvin Ren Amira Chali, Tomas Dominguez, Irving Dominguez Flores, Michael Dominguez, Job Robles-Pelaez, and Zayda Garcia Mejia.
The defendants have been charged with felony recycling fraud, conspiracy, and grand theft. Additionally, the truck drivers involved may face suspension of their commercial driver’s licenses and impounding of their tractor-trailers. Upon conviction, felony recycling fraud and related crimes carry a potential sentence of six months to three years behind bars in addition to fines, court-ordered restitution, and possible loss of driver’s license and/or vehicle.
It is important to note that a criminal complaint contains charges that are only allegations against a person. Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.