Talk about a scam that was nothing short of stealing from the State of California! California Department of Justice (DOJ) special agents have arrested five people from the Modesto-Turlock area and are searching for a sixth suspect in a recycling fraud case in which already-redeemed containers were being redeemed again.
"This case involved our DOJ special agents serving search warrants at 12 locations and our DOJ document examiners in the DOJ Sacramento Recycle Fraud Team," said Alan Barcelona, president of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) which represents both agents and examiners. "Recycling fraud has grown leaps and bounds over the years and must be investigated and the suspects prosecuted."
Two of those arrested, Michael Marchant and Leila Arretche, of Hughson, have already pleaded no-contest contest to a felony charge of recycling fraud and have agreed to pay restitution in the amounts of $4,990 and $370,492 respectively. They will each serve 120 days jail and will be placed on supervised probation for three years.
Also arrested and charged with conspiracy, grand theft and recycling fraud were , Jonathan Andrino and recycling center owners Robert Nicastro and James Reese, all residents of Turlock.
A sixth person, Joshua Gray, is suspected of working with Andrino and is being sought by authorities.
If convicted, the suspects each face a maximum of six years and four months in county jail , a $25,000 fine, plus restitution costs.
The DOJ Sacramento Recycle Fraud Team served search warrants on 12 locations in late September and early October, seized records and $125,000 in cash. As a result, six recycling centers have been placed on “prepayment controls” by CalRecycle, so they are not reimbursed for CRV claims until each claim and its supporting documentation have been reviewed and determined to be legitimate.
During a two-day effort that included CalRecycle personnel, nearly 250,000 pounds ( 22 truckloads) of beverage containers were removed from a ranch and warehouse and sent to a processing facility.
California’s bottle bill provides an incentive for beverage container recycling by establishing a CRV of 5 cents for containers less than 24 ounces and 10 cents for containers 24 ounces or larger. CalRecycle is undertaking a major and multipronged effort to protect the recycling fund, including new approaches to curb fraud. Much of the emphasis is on preventing fraud before it occurs, such as enhanced training of recycling center owners and increased scrutiny of payment claims.