LOS ANGELES—Eleven suspects were charged with recycling fraud, conspiracy, and grand theft on Monday, January 27, following a four month investigation conducted in tandem by the California Department of Justice and the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).

The operator of a recycling center in Pacoima was amongst those arrested. The scheme cost the state’s Beverage Container Recycling Fund an estimated $2 million. 

The multi-state operation was deemed fraudulent after officials discovered that cans and bottles were purchased in Arizona and Nevada. The suspects smuggled the containers into California in-route to a self-storage facility in Los Angeles. A total of 12 different recycling centers in Los Angeles County were used to obtain refunds. 

The defendants being charged are: Yajaira Rojas, 39, Isaiah Rojas, 20, Raul Fernandez, 48, Catalina Hernandez, 40, Enrique Morado-Amador, 57, Jaime Bojado Perez, 63, Jose Orozco-Lopez, 48, Selvin Rodriguez, 44, Amnel Ruano, 31, Arturo Reyes, 47, and Carlos Grimaldi, 60.

The activity is considered felonious because Nevada and Arizona do not grant the 5 or 10-cent California redemption, so their containers are not eligible for refund vouchers. 

During the week of January 13, investigators seized “17,669 pounds of aluminum, 7,554 pounds of plastic, and 2,430 pounds of glass empty beverage containers with a potential redemption value of $38,899.” 

CalRecycle Acting Director Ken DaRosa stated:

“CalRecycle’s fraud prevention strategies are constantly evolving to protect public funds and make clear that fraudulent CRV redemption schemes will result in arrests, fines, and jail time.”

The charges carry a potential sentence of 6 months to 3 years in prison including additional fines.