Eight family members who run recycling centers in Riverside County are facing felony charges for operating a massive recycling fraud.
According to the Department of Justice, the family illegally redeem $7.6 million from aluminum cans and plastic bottles smuggled from Arizona over California’s border
DOJ agents said the family smuggled 178 tons of empty beverage containers to defraud California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program.
CalRecycle created the program to incentivize recycling at privately-owned centers with a 5-cent, 10-cent return on cans.
“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,” CalRecycleDirector Rachel Machi Wagoner said. “CalRecycle’s partnership with the California Department of Justice is working to stop criminals and protect funds that belong to Californians.”
Since consumers outside of California do not pay California Redemption Value deposits on beverage purchases, those containers are not eligible for CRV redemption.
In 2022, the DOJ launched an investigation into several Riverside County recycling centers operated by the family.
Court documents identified the eight family members as Maria Ermelinda Saenz Gonzalez, 41, Francisco Balmore Amaya, 24, Jose Raul Chica, 50, Jose Antonio Interiano Martinez, 35, Jose Alfredo Giron Henriquez, 36, Victor Manual Hernandez, 23, Manuela Rodriguez Rizo, 58, and Genaro Solis Fuentes, 43.
“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.”
This week, the DOJ’s Bureau of Investigation Recycle Fraud Team filed charges against the eight defendants and served search warrants on six locations, which resulted in the seizure of $1,061,499 and additional material.
Californians can report suspected recycling fraud or bottle redemption violations to CalRecycle by calling 1-866-CANLOAD (226-5623).