Nevada residents arrested for allegedly defrauding state of more than $300,000.
The California Department of Justice (DOJ) has confirmed that it has arrested five people suspected of defrauding the state’s Beverage Container Recycling Fund of more than $300,000.
The suspects are charged with conspiracy, grand theft and recycling fraud involving redeeming used beverage containers from Nevada for California Redemption Value (CRV) in Sacramento and the San Joaquin Valley. More than five tons of suspected out-of-state containers were seized during the arrests. The 17-month investigation was prompted by a referral from the Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).
“Defrauding the recycling fund is stealing from the state of California and its citizens, and we are taking aggressive steps to thwart those who would attempt it,” says CalRecycle Director Caroll Mortensen. “We take fraud very seriously and work side by side with the DOJ and other state and local agencies to catch these criminals and punish them to the fullest extent of the law.”
According to CalRecycle, in April 2012, in cooperation with city police departments in Nevada and the California Highway Patrol, DOJ began investigating a group suspected of transporting used beverage containers from Nevada to California and redeeming them for CRV.
Gerardo Gomez-Vasquez and Magdalena Hernandez-Sebastian are suspected of purchasing large amounts of used aluminum and plastic beverage containers from Nevada recycling centers. The materials were taken to mini-storage units, where they were sorted, crushed and rebagged, according to the DOJ. Investigators determined that in the ensuing months, the couple rented 26-foot box trucks multiple times.
Argelio Hernandez-Torres, Ludin Rosales-Valladares, Elfego Gonzalez-Ramos and Luis Aguirre-Alacorn are suspected of delivering truckloads of the Nevada-sourced beverage containers over the course of several months to several CalRecycle-certified recycling centers in the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valley areas, where the material was illegally redeemed for CRV.
On Sept. 13, 2013, DOJ Recycling Fraud Team agents conducted surveillance at Gomez-Vasquez’ residence and storage units and observed a rental truck being loaded by Gomez-Vasquez and his wife. They followed the truck from Reno to Sacramento, where the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle and detained Gomez-Vazquez and the driver, Aguirre-Alacorn. The driver admitted to purchasing 3,000 pounds of aluminum and 1,000 pounds of plastic material in Reno and transporting it. He said he planned to sell it at certified recycling centers in Stockton, the DOJ reports. Both suspects were booked into Sacramento County Main Jail.
Sept. 14, 2013, agents returned to Reno and arrested Hernandez-Sebastian, Rosales-Valladares and Gonzalez Ramos. They were booked into Washoe County Jail. Agents seized about 10,000 pounds of aluminum and plastic beverage containers, the DOJ says.
Gomez-Vasquez and Aguirre-Alacorn face arraignment Oct. 1, 2013. Hernandez-Sebastian is scheduled for arraignment Oct. 14, 2013. Rosales-Valladares and Gonzalez-Ramos will be extradited to California. All face felony charges, which could result in prison sentences.
Based on CalRecycle records, truck rental history and surveillance operations, Recycling Fraud Team agents estimate the amount of theft from California’s Beverage Container Recycling Fund at $305,280.