Two men have been arrested after allegedly trying to smuggle thousands of pounds of empty cans and bottles into California to cash in the containers for approximately $20,000 in state recycling fees, officials said this week.
The arrests were made during a five-day recycling fraud sting operation conducted in Riverside County by multiple state agencies between March 13 and March 17, according to a news release from CalRecycle.
Both men had entered the state from Arizona.
More than 14,500 pounds of used beverage containers were recovered in Riverside County, officials said. The containers were “allegedly imported for the purpose of defrauding the California Redemption Value Fund,” the release stated.
The sting centered at a California Department of Food and Agriculture checkpoint set up in Blythe, near the intersection of Agnes Wilson Road and Highway 95, officials said.
On March 14, CDFA agents detected a fake Imported Material Report and false Bill of Lading provided by 49-year-old Balmore Alvarado when the Chino resident entered the state, according to the release.
A search of Alvarado’s trailer revealed 7,200 pounds of used bottles and cans with a potential CRV value of $10,275, authorities said.
Two days later, a California Department of Justice fraud team conducted surveillance on a semi-truck that was found to be importing empty drink containers into the state.
Anthony Sanchez, 56, of Tucson, Arizona, was found to have 7,675 pounds of used cans and bottles in his trailer, officials said. The potential refund value was estimated at $9,636.
“Sanchez also presented a fraudulent Bill of Lading and did not have an Imported Material Report, required for anyone who transports used beverage containers into California,” the release stated.
Alvarado and Sanchez both face charges of felony recycling fraud, attempted grand theft, filing a false or forged document, and conspiracy, the agency said.
The possible sentence for the charges is between six months and three years.
“CalRecycle’s fraud prevention reforms and substantial network of enforcement partners make it increasingly risky for those attempting to defraud California’s Redemption Value Program,” CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline said. “The department will continue to use all available resources to make sure CRV deposits go back to California consumers and not in the pockets of criminal enterprises.”