Attorney General Becerra and CalRecycle Director Smithline Announce $16.1 Million Recycling Fraud Bust in Arizona

Monday, December 3, 2018
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California DOJ partners with Arizona law enforcement in first-ever recycling fraud takedown across state lines

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline, in partnership with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, today 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. 

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. 

“California’s recycling program is one of many publicly-funded programs used to incentivize better treatment of our environment and communities. Those who choose to undercut these efforts to protect and improve our community will be apprehended,” said Attorney General Becerra. “My office will continue to work with law enforcement agencies across state lines to detect and stop criminal activity, and hold perpetrators accountable.” 

“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. “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.”

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. 

It is important to note that a criminal complaint contains charges that are only allegations against a person. Every defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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