Truck Driver Arrested After Attempting to Smuggle $11K of Recyclables Into Californiaby Jana Ritter - Published: 8/10/2016
A truck driver has been arrested for allegedly attempting to defraud the California Redemption Value recycling system after law enforcement caught him transporting 7,000 pounds of bottles and cans worth an estimated $11,000 across the border from Arizona. He is charged with felony recycling fraud, attempted grand theft and conspiracy. If convicted, he faces six months to three years in prison.
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The California Department of Justice Recycling Fraud Team agents had tracked 40 year-old Julio Bolanos from Phoenix, where they had witnessed used beverage containers being loaded into a semi-truck on July 19. They tracked the semi-truck as it headed towards California and then suddenly take a 70-mile detour to avoid the border control checkpoint in Blythe, CA. The Fraud Team agents alerted the California Highway Patrol to stop the truck and see if the driver had the required shipment receipt or imported material report needed to transport used beverage containers into California. Sure enough, he didn't have either document.
According to Mark Oldfield of CalRecycle, people have been trying to play this game with the California recycling system for a few years now. He says that most come in from Arizona and Nevada, but they’ve also been seeing people bringing in recyclables from as far away as Washington. “The problem is there’s no recycling incentive in those states,” Oldfield says. He explains that people often buy bulk loads of used beverage containers at a low price from scrap dealers outside California who turn a blind eye to the illegal operations if it means making a profit. Or, there are also entire criminal rings involved in the scam. The truck drivers usually take the cargo over the border to a storage location and from there; they split it into smaller loads to be traded in for cash at local recycling centers. Oldfield says that it's become so common that California has set up the fraud team to curb the problem. “It’s a big state and an ongoing problem, but we’re bringing to bear all the resources available to try and stop it.”
In 2015 alone, the recycling fraud teams helped with the arrests of eight truck drivers carrying $108,000 worth of recycling materials and a number of similar arrests have already occurred this year. “Our enforcement partners will continue to follow every lead, monitor suspected traffickers and disrupt these criminal organizations before they have a chance to rip off California consumers,” CalRecycle Director, Scott Smithline said.