Special agents assigned to the California Department of Justice’s Recycling Fraud Team busted a truck driver for smuggling a huge load of out-of-state used beverage containers across the border from Arizona to California in an attempt to defraud the California Redemption Value (CRV) fund
“Our enforcement partners with the California Department of Justice’s Recycling Fraud Team are relentless when it comes to locating, surveilling and ultimately disrupting these CRV fraud schemes,” CalRecycle Acting Director Ken DaRosa said. “From the monitoring of recycling centers, in-state and out- of-state, to the continued vigilance at California’s border agricultural checkpoints, illegal haulers should know that we are going all-out to shut them down.”
Agents arrested Cesar Vargas, 42, of Compton, on June 23, 2015. While conducting surveillance on recycling centers in Phoenix, Ariz., agents spotted a red semi with a white trailer labeled “Franklin Express” of Compton being loaded with used beverage containers. Hours later, the semi arrived at the Blythe Agricultural Checkpoint in Riverside County, where a driver, later identified as Vargas, told inspectors his trailer was empty. A subsequent inspection revealed nearly 7,000 pounds of plastic and aluminum used beverage containers worth an estimated $7,136. The driver could not produce an Imported Materials Report, which is required under 2014 reform regulations to fight CRV fraud in the state.
Vargas was arrested on recycling fraud and attempted grand theft charges, and his truck was impounded. His arraignment is set for Aug. 18 in Indio. Recycling Fraud Team agents made two similar arrests at agricultural checkpoints earlier this year: one in Yermo, Calif., and another at the Blythe station where Vargas was detained.
"This is a huge problem with scammers bringing in recyclable containers from Oregon, Nevada and Arizona," said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. "That's stealing from California consumers who pay into this fund every time they purchase beverages in aluminum or plastic containers."
California’s Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act incentivizes recycling through a CRV fee paid by California consumers at the time of purchase and refunded upon return of the empty beverage containers. Since the fee is not paid by out-of-state consumers, out-of-state beverage containers are not eligible for CRV redemption.