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California deals with recycling scammers

United States – In the USA, a group in California has been charged with grand theft in a US$ 14 million recycling fraud case following a two-year investigation by the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and the Department of Justice’s Recycling Fraud Team.

Five suspects have been taken into custody on grounds of falsely claiming recycling refunds for countless U-Haul trucks full of beverage bottles and containers, said to be mainly ‘imported’ from Arizona. The out-of-state scam involved a total of 24 Californian recycling centres.

Businessman James Gonzales of Gonzalez Recycling is said to have been the organiser of the illegal scheme. Evidence obtained through search warrants has indicated that his family-owned company received US$ 20 000 a week in loans from Sequoia Resources in California with the expectation that Gonzales would bring back enough material to cover the cost within three days.

The Recycling Fraud Team has claimed that the recycling centres in liaison with Gonzales redeemed an estimated US$ 14 million worth of material between the summers of 2012 and 2014. Since this criminal enterprise came to light, CalRecycle has terminated the programme certifications of 20 recycling centres in California, while decertifying four voluntary initiatives and denying payment of up to US$ 245 495 in handling fees.

This is not an isolated incident: earlier this year, Los Angeles recycling business Action Sales and Metal was forced to pay nearly US$ 2 million in restitution to California’s recycling programme as part of a settlement agreement resulting from illegal claims for refunds on out-of-state bottles and cans.

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