LOS ANGELES – On December 14, 2023, California Attorney General Rob Bonta announced the arrest of the suspected leader of a large-scale, multistate recycling fraud ring who allegedly stole approximately $4.3 million from the California Recycling Fund.
On December 9, 2023, California Department of Justice (DOJ)’s Recycle Fraud Team worked with the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Phoenix Police Department to arrest the suspect who had fled the United States and was considered a fugitive since March 2022.
“Let this be a strong warning to anyone seeking to steal from California citizens: We will find you, and we will hold you accountable,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Fraudulent criminal activity, such as the schemes orchestrated by this individual and others, results in the annual loss of millions of dollars from the California Recycling Fund and negatively impacts our economy. I am thankful to our local and federal law enforcement partners for their work in this investigation.”
California DOJ’s investigative team discovered that the ringleader would control the gathering of empty beverage containers from out of state and then work with accomplices to bring them into California to collect money from the California Recycling Fund. On March 16, 2022, the suspect was charged in Los Angeles County Superior Court with Grand Theft (PC 487), Conspiracy PC 182, and illegal importation of out of state empty beverage containers PRC 14591(b)(1)(F) and a warrant was issued for their arrest.
The suspect then fled the United States, however DOJ continued to track the suspect’s location and learned the suspect would be returning to Arizona in December 2023. DOJ agents worked with Arizona and federal law enforcement partners, resulting in the arrest of the ringleader by CBP at the Phoenix International Airport. The suspect was booked into a Phoenix Police Department jail and awaits extradition to California for prosecution by DOJ’s Special Prosecutions Section.
The objective of the Recycle Fraud Program is to detect and stop existing fraud by organized criminal groups against the California Redemption Value fund and to deter future fraud through the successful prosecution of criminal activity.
The Recycle Fraud Team is part of DOJ’s Division of Law Enforcement’s Bureau of Investigation. Special Agents work throughout California and in neighboring states, investigating organizations that commit large scale fraud against California’s recycling program.