California

Arizona trio allegedly made millions committing recycling fraud in California

California and Arizona law enforcement worked together to bust a suspected million-dollar recycling fraud operation based out of Phoenix.
California and Arizona law enforcement worked together to bust a suspected million-dollar recycling fraud operation based out of Phoenix. California Attorney General's Office

An Arizona-based trucking company is accused of smuggling an estimated $16.1 million worth of recyclable beverage containers into the Golden State, according to a statement released Monday by the California Attorney General’s Office.

Miguel Bustillos, owner of Bustillos’ Trucking, truck driver Anthony Sanchez and “suspected broker” Amaury Avila-Medina have been charged with felony recycling fraud, conspiracy and grand theft, the result of a five-month investigation by the California attorney general’s office, CalRecycle and the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

“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,” Attorney General Xavier Becerra said in a statement announcing the bust.

AG Office spokeswoman Jennifer Molina said the $16.1 million amount “was calculated using the suspect’s admission of the amount and frequency that he imported recyclable material into California. We verified the average amount by taking the weights of the trucks that we previously seized from the suspect while en route to California.”

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This marks the second major recycling fraud bust announcing by the AG’s office in three months; in September, the state brought charges against eight people suspected of smuggling 28 tons into California.

California’s beverage container recycling program, which is overseen by CalRecycle, is financed by the California Refund Value program, which levies a surcharge on beverage containers when purchased from a retailer.

As part of the operation, authorities seized more than 27,800 pounds of empty beverage containers, valued at nearly $42,000, “from California-bound semi-trucks at a collection yard in Phoenix,” according to the Attorney General’s Office.

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