Riverside CA (TFC) – Two truck drivers are accused of driving tractor trailers full of used bottles and cans across state lines to cash in on the recycling fees paid by the state of California. You cannot make this stuff up, and apparently, these busts are nothing new to California according to San Diego politician, Jerry Brown estimated the “illicit trade” was draining the state’s $1.1-billion recycling fund. Government officials recently estimated the “fraud” as costing California about $40 million a year.
Accordingly, law enforcement sting in Riverside County uncovered “thousands of pounds of used bottles and cans being smuggled into California where they were expected to be cashed in for close to $20,000 in state recycle fees.”
Special officers pulled over tractor trailers for four days last month on Highway 95 as part of a systematic crackdown on recycling fraud.
The sting was targeting those drivers who were trying to evade the California Department of Food and Agriculture checkpoint on Interstate 10, four miles east of Blythe.
When officers pulled over two trucks they found out why. There were bags containing almost 15,000 pounds of used beverage containers being shipped to California where they would be recycled for the highest fee. Paid for by taxpayers through the California Redemption Value Fund. The minimum refund established for each type of eligible beverage container is 5 cents for each container under 24 ounces and 10 cents for each container 24 ounces or greater.
The first truck held 7,020 pounds of used beverage containers, with a $10,275.85 refund value.
Two days later, another big rig was found with 7,675 pounds of recyclable cans and bottles worth $9,636.79 in refunds.
Each truck driver was arrested and charged with felony recycling fraud, attempted grand theft, filing a false or forged document, and conspiracy. If convicted, each will face a sentence of six months to three years. The state will, of course, use civil asset forfeiture to claim all of the ‘illegal recyclables’.
“The department will continue to use all available resources to make sure CRV deposits go back to California consumers and not in the pockets of criminal enterprises,” said CalRecycle director Scott Smithline in a written news release.