SACRAMENTO – The California Department of Justice (DOJ) and CalRecycle today announced the results of a months-long recycling fraud investigation in San Bernardino County. Laszlo Castro Lencse, Antonio Iezza, Jr., Jaime Mosaquites Diaz, Eligio Ortega Dominguez, Geovany Ortega Narcisco, and Gonzalo Cachu Lucatero have been arrested and charged for their alleged involvement in a multi-million dollar fraud scheme to bring thousands of pounds of ineligible empty beverage containers collected from Las Vegas casinos into California in order to redeem them for cash. One suspect, Ivan Dominguez Lopez, remains at large. In addition to the arrests, searches were conducted at multiple locations allegedly involved in the fraud, including the third largest recycling processor in the state, West Coast Waste. Over $300,000 in cash was seized during the search of West Coast Waste.
CalRecycle estimates that of the 24.5 billion California Redemption Value (CRV) eligible containers sold in 2019, more than 18.4 billion were recycled. The CRV program, which is administered by CalRecycle, is the state’s empty beverage container recycling program, and only material from California is eligible for redemption under CRV. The CRV program incentivizes recycling at privately-owned centers with a 5- or 10-cent return on eligible beverage containers. California consumers subsidize the program every time they purchase CRV-eligible bottles and cans in the state. Recycling centers are responsible for ensuring that only eligible bottles and cans sold in California are redeemed.
During the course of the four-month investigation, DOJ's Division of Law Enforcement uncovered a scheme in which the defendants allegedly illegally imported thousands of pounds of beverage containers, collected from Las Vegas casinos, to recycling centers in Southern California for redemption under the CRV program. In addition, defendants allegedly filed fraudulent CRV claims for nonexistent empty beverage containers and sold previously redeemed empty beverage containers back into the marketplace to be re-redeemed. Each of the defendants have been charged with conspiracy, grand theft, and recycling fraud. Antonio Iezza, Jr. faces an additional charge of presenting false claims for payment, and Eligio Ortega Dominguez is additionally charged with receipt of stolen property.
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.
A copy of the complaint can be found here.