8 Busted in Alleged California Recycling Scam

They allegedly brought in tons of cans and bottles from Arizona
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2023 11:00 AM CDT
California AG: Family Scammed Recycling Program Out of $7.6M
California's recycling deposit program is a tempting target for crooks.   (Getty Images/Yarygin)

California charges an extra 5 or 10 cents on bottles and cans, which can be redeemed when they're returned to a recycling center—and those nickels and dimes can add up to a lot of money, especially if you're bringing in out-of-state containers by the ton. The state says eight members of a Riverside County family have been charged with scamming the system out of $7.6 million by importing bottles and cans from Arizona, which doesn't have a recycling deposit program, Insider reports. The family allegedly smuggled 178 tons of cans and bottles into California from the neighboring state over an eight-month period.

The family members face charges including recycling fraud, grand theft, and conspiracy. They defrauded the system on a "chronic and ongoing basis," according to a criminal complaint. The alleged scheme involved six recycling centers in the county, which will also face penalties, authorities say. "California's recycling program is funded by consumers, and helps protect our environment and our communities," Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement. "Those who try to undermine its integrity through criminal operations will be held accountable."

Authorities say more illegally imported beverage containers, worth more than $1 million, were seized as part of the investigation. KTLA reports this isn't the first time people have tried to scam the CalRecycle system with Arizonan containers. Earlier this year, two business owners in Arizona were arrested in connection with an alleged $10 million scam involving bottles and cans from their home state. In 2018, three people in Arizona were accused of scamming the system out of $16.1 million. (More recycling stories.)

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