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Recycling fraud can be lucrative – and result in serious charges

On Behalf of | Oct 7, 2023 | Money Laundering

It may sound like an old Seinfeld storyline. However, recycling fraud is a very real problem in California, and prosecutors take it seriously. The California Department of Justice (DOJ) even has a Bureau of Investigation Recycle Fraud Team (RFT) that investigates this activity.

This summer, for example, Attorney General Rob Bonta announced that eight members of a Riverside County family had been charged with recycling fraud as well as conspiracy and grand theft. According to AG Bonta, the “recycling fraud scheme” cost CalRecycle (the state’s beverage container recycling program) some $7.6 million. 

Tons of containers allegedly transported across state lines

The defendants allegedly transported tons of containers from Arizona (which doesn’t have a comparable recycling program) into California to recycling centers they allegedly ran in order to take advantage of the California Beverage Container Recycling Program. 

The program pays a California Redemption Value (CRV) incentive of 5 to 10 cents on recyclable containers like plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans. The program is only for beverage containers purchased in California.

While the CRV doesn’t add up to much, even for those to take the time to bring in their recyclables to a designed center rather than toss them in the nearest recycling bin, it can add up when people engage in activity like that alleged. According to the California DOJ, the defendants smuggled nearly 180 tons in cans and bottles.

Activity that some people may consider a “victimless crime” is often seen as anything but that by state agencies, law enforcement and prosecutors. AG Bonta has said that “California’s recycling program is funded by consumers, and helps protect our environment and our communities,” and that the “funds belong to California consumers who recycle.”

If you’re facing criminal charges, it’s crucial to fully understand the case against you and the potential consequences. Having experienced legal guidance can help you protect your rights and your future.