SACRAMENTO – Following a five-month investigation, on November 7-8, 2018, California Department of Justice special agents arrested three suspects accused of using an Arizona trucking company as a front to defraud California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program.
The investigation culminated in the seizure of 27,860 pounds of empty beverage containers from a collection yard in Phoenix, Arizona. California DOJ Recycling Fraud Team agents believe the owner of Bustillos’ Trucking operated his company for the sole purpose of smuggling out-of-state containers into California to defraud the California Redemption Value fund.
“Special agents assigned to the recycling fraud team work to protect the integrity of California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program,” said California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA) President Alan Barcelona. “Those who purchase beverages with a California Redemption Value (CRV) pay into this fund which is sometimes threatened buy people from out of state trying to redeem containers that are not eligible for redemption in California.”
On Nov. 5, 2018, California DOJ special agents coordinated with Arizona law enforcement authorities to serve three search warrants on locations where used beverage containers were packed and loaded onto California-bound trucks. From one property, agents seized:
- 19,300 pounds of aluminum empty beverage containers (potential CRV value: $30,880)
- 8,560 pounds of plastic empty beverage containers (potential CRV value: $10,957)
On Nov. 7, Arizona Department of Public Safety arrested owner Miguel Bustillos, 49, of Glendale, Arizona and truck driver Anthony Sanchez, 57, of Tucson, Arizona, pursuant to warrants obtained in Los Angeles County. Both were extradited to California. On Nov. 8, California DOJ agents in Los Angeles arrested suspected broker Amaury Avila-Medina, 56, of Sylmar. All three suspects face charges of felony recycling fraud, attempted grand theft, and conspiracy. Based on evidence, agents believe the suspects, in collaboration with Arizona-based collection yards searched, are responsible for defrauding approximately $16.1 million from the CRV fund over the past three years.
Upon conviction, felony recycling fraud and related crimes carry a potential sentence of six months to three years of incarceration in addition to fines, court-ordered restitution, and loss of license and/or vehicle.