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Family Faces Prison after Recycling Scheme Defrauds Program of $7.6M

The suspects smuggled some 178 tons of aluminum cans and plastic bottles from Arizona to California.

Drawing inspiration from Seinfeld’s Kramer and Newman, a family that operated recycling centers in California attempted to capitalize on the state's beverage container recycling program.

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According to a statement from the office of California's Attorney General Rob Bonta, during an eight-month period, the eight family members brought some 178 tons of aluminum cans and plastic bottles from Arizona to undocumented lots in Riverside County, California.

They did this because California's Beverage Container Recycling Program, administered by CalRecycle, incentivizes recycling at privately owned centers and offers a 5 or 10-cent return on beverage containers. Arizona does not offer a similar program, and only material from California is eligible for redemption. 

The family, however, ran into trouble when the the California Department of Justice began an investigation in 2022 into a group of their recycling centers in Riverside County. The investigation determined the family’s alleged actions defrauded the CalRecycle program of approximately $7.6 million. 

DOJ agents also seized about $1 million and additional illegally imported beverage containers during the execution of search warrants on six locations.

The suspects, aged 23 to 58, now face multiple charges that include recycling fraud, grand theft, and conspiracy. CalRecycle also plans to carry out action against the involved recycling centers.

The recommended bail amount for the majority of the defendants is $30,000. One defendant had a recommended amount of $50,000. 

Felony grand theft convictions in California carry a sentence of up to three years on incarceration. However, according to a California law group, potential sentence enhancements for felony grand theft of high-value property include an additional four years in prison if the property was worth more than $3.2 million.

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