Attorney General Bonta and CalRecycle Announce Charges, Seizures in Riverside County Recycling Fraud Scheme

Tuesday, July 25, 2023
Contact: (916) 210-6000,

Suspects are eight members of a family who allegedly defrauded the CalRecycle program of around $7.6 million 

OAKLAND – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, along with CalRecycle Director Rachel Machi Wagoner, today announced the filing of charges against eight family members who together carried out a recycling fraud scheme in Riverside County. Over an eight-month period, the suspects defrauded California’s beverage container recycling program of $7.6 million by bringing tons of out-of-state materials from Arizona for redemption. They are facing multiple charges including recycling fraud, grand theft, and conspiracy.

"California's recycling program is funded by consumers, and helps protect our environment and our communities," said Attorney General Rob Bonta. "Those who try to undermine its integrity through criminal operations will be held accountable. I am grateful to my team of diligent investigators, and to our partners at CalRecycle, for uncovering this fraud scheme and for working together to protect funds that belong to California consumers who recycle." 

“California will not tolerate fraud against our recycling deposit system that has kept nearly a half-trillion bottles and cans from being littered or landfilled in our state,” said CalRecycle Director Rachel Machi Wagoner. “CalRecycle’s partnership with the California Department of Justice (DOJ) is working to stop criminals and protect funds that belong to Californians.” 

The California Beverage Container Recycling Program is administered by CalRecycle. The program's California Redemption Value (CRV) fee incentivizes recycling at privately-owned centers with a 5- or 10-cent return on eligible beverage containers. California consumers subsidize the CRV program every time they purchase CRV-eligible bottles and cans in the state.

Only material from California is eligible for redemption under this program.

In October 2022, the California Department of Justice (DOJ) launched an investigation into a group of recycling centers in Riverside County operated by the suspects. The investigation found that over the course of eight months, the suspects smuggled 178 tons of aluminum cans and plastic bottles from Arizona and delivered them to undocumented lots in Riverside County. The suspects then unlawfully redeemed $7.6 million in CRV funds. Arizona does not have a recycling program that provides redemption value for bottles and cans.

Today, DOJ's Bureau of Investigation Recycle Fraud Team (RFT) filed charges against the eight defendants. Its agents also served search warrants on six locations, which resulted in the seizure of $1,061,499 and additional illegally imported beverage containers. All suspects will be booked at the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Jail.

CalRecycle will also carry out action against the involved recycling centers.

Photos from the operation can be found here: Pic 1Pic 2Pic 3Pic 4.

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

A copy of the criminal complaint can be found here.

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