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recycling fraud arrests

Three Arrested in $16.1M Recycling Fraud Scheme

California's justice department has partnered with Arizona law enforcement in the first-ever recycling fraud takedown across state lines.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) Director Scott Smithline, in partnership with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, announced the arrest of three individuals for allegedly defrauding California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program by trying to import beverage containers sold in Arizona into California to be redeemed for their recycling value.

The arrests are the result of a five-month investigation, which led to the seizure of 27,860 pounds of empty beverage containers from California-bound semi-trucks at a collection yard in Phoenix. The seized beverage containers had a potential redemption value of $41,836.80.

The defendants operated a company—Bustillos’ Trucking—which the complaint alleges was operated for the sole purpose of defrauding California’s recycling program for a three-year period. Owner Miguel Bustillos, truck driver Anthony Sanchez and suspected broker Amaury Avila-Medina have been charged with recycling fraud, conspiracy and grand theft.

California’s beverage container recycling program, administered by CalRecycle, encourages recycling at privately-owned centers through a 5 to 10 cent return on eligible beverage containers. Recycling centers are responsible for ensuring that only eligible bottles and cans that are sold in California are redeemed.

“The cross-border partnership between the California Department of Justice and Arizona’s law enforcement community sends a clear signal that organized criminal groups have no safe space to operate recycling fraud schemes,” said CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline in a statement. “CalRecycle and its law enforcement partners will continue to follow these investigations wherever they lead to protect public funds and the integrity of California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program.”

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