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California busts recycling fraud ring

LOS ANGELES – Thousands of pounds of empty beverage containers were intercepted this summer, while being smuggled into California from Arizona and Nevada to defraud the state’s recycling program, authorities said Wednesday.

The state Department of Resources and Recycling said agents seized 56,000 pounds of equipment worth an estimated $82,853 in potential California Redemption value.

Eight people were arrested in the law enforcement in Winterhaven and Needles on the California-Arizona state line and Barstow, in the middle of the Mojave Desert.

California encourages recycling and requires the consumer to pay deposits of 5 cents to 10 cents on certain beverage containers that can be redeemed at certified recycling centers. Out-of-state containers are not eligible for reimbursement, commonly known as the CRV.

The anti-fraud approach also involved the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Food and Agriculture.

“CalRecycle works with police partners in an effort to protect against every nickel and dime Californians pay at the cashier with the purchase of CRV beverages,” CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline said in a statement.

The most recent seizure occurred Aug. 15 in the Imperial County community of Winterhaven, where a Yuma, Arizona, resident who owns a recycling center was arrested, while 907 kilograms (411 pounds) of aluminum empty beverage containers in California, the officials said.

CalRecycle said that the operation is suspected of having smuggled 468,000 pounds (212,283 kilograms) of aluminum about three years.

The other attacks occurred earlier in San Bernardino County.

In mid-July, a two-day operation on the state line checkpoints in and near the Needles netted five vehicles that 33,639 pound (15,258 kg) of aluminum and 13,623 pound (6,179 kilograms) of plastic containers of Nevada, the agency said. Six people were arrested.

In June, a semi-truck allegedly carrying of beverage containers from Las Vegas was stopped in Barstow. The driver was arrested and agents seized 1,480 pounds (671 kg) of aluminum and 6,260 pounds (2,839 kilograms) of plastic containers.

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