Attorney General Becerra and CalRecycle Director Smithline Announce Summer Recycling Fraud Sweeps, Preventing Nearly $83,000 in Illegal Redemptions of Out-of-State Containers

Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

Sweeps occurred in San Bernardino and Imperial Counties

SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline today announced the arrest of eight individuals accused of attempting to defraud the State’s Beverage Container Recycling Program by smuggling out-of-state empty beverage containers for illegal California Redemption Value (CRV) redemption. 

California’s beverage container recycling program, administered by the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), encourages recycling through a 5- to 10-cent deposit on CRV-eligible beverage containers. Consumers can redeem their containers at privately-owned recycling centers certified by CalRecycle. Recycling centers are responsible for ensuring that only eligible bottles and cans that are sold in California, where the CRV deposit was paid, are redeemed. 

“The Beverage Container Recycling Program exemplifies California values: using innovative public programs to better our environment and our communities,” said Attorney General Becerra. “Individuals who undermine these efforts by criminally taking advantage of public programs for personal gain will be held accountable. We will continue working with our partners throughout the state to ensure the integrity of our public programs.”

“CalRecycle works alongside its law enforcement partners in an effort to protect the nickels and dimes Californians pay at the cash register when purchasing CRV–labeled beverages,” said CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline. “Those attempting to cash in on out-of-state containers and steal CRV funds from California consumers should know we have agents and staff working diligently to disrupt these schemes and protect public funds.”

Working in partnership with the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA), and other state and local partners, the California Department of Justice’s Recycling Fraud Team agents recovered more than 56,000 pounds of material worth an estimated $82,853 in potential redemptions.

The suspects were arrested as the result of three separate busts:

  • Barstow, San Bernardino County: On June 6, 2018, California Department of Justice (CA DOJ) agents arrested Moises Morgan-Gomez, from Las Vegas, Nevada, for transporting a semi-truck filled with empty beverage containers from a Las Vegas construction yard for the purpose of collecting fraudulent CRV redemptions in California. Morgan-Gomez was charged with Felony Recycling Fraud, Attempted Grand Theft, and Conspiracy. Agents seized 1,480 pounds of aluminum and 6,260 pounds of plastic empty beverage containers with an estimated CRV value of $10,142.
  • Needles, San Bernardino County: On July 16 and 17, 2018, CalRecycle, CDFA, and CA DOJ seized 33,639 pounds of aluminum and 13,623 pounds of plastic empty beverage containers with an estimated CRV value of $71,260. Over the two-day operation, suspects in five vehicles were found to be transporting out-of-state empty beverage containers from Nevada to California with intent to defraud California’s CRV fund. Agents arrested Jose Ramirez, Juan Higuera, Romeo Turcios, Ricardo Flores, Mario Tolentino and Rafael Escobar on charges including Felony Recycling Fraud, Attempted Grand Theft, and Conspiracy. 
  • Winterhaven, Imperial County:  On August 15, 2018, CA DOJ Recycling Fraud Team agents arrested Mary Simpson, an Arizona recycling center owner, suspected of smuggling empty beverage containers into California in an attempt to defraud California’s CRV fund. Agents seized 907 pounds of aluminum empty beverage containers with an estimated CRV value of $1,451, this was in addition to materials she had brought in previously. According to the complaint, Simpson imported approximately 468,000 pounds of aluminum worth an estimated $748,800 in CRV into California over the past three years.

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

# # #