Department of Justice and CalRecycle Announce Recycling Fraud Bust

Company accused of defrauding state over redemption of containers.

September 3, 2013
Recycling Today Staff
Municipal / IC&I Plastics

The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) and the state Department of Justice (DOJ) have arrested Amado Nieva, the owner of Save Us Recycling, Sun Valley, Calif., for allegedly defrauding the state of more than $500,000 over a more than one-year period.

CalRecycle says the arrest is part of the state’s efforts to combat beverage container recycling fraud. The arrest follows a month-long DOJ investigation in which Nieva reportedly received empty beverage containers from Nevada and illegally claimed California refunds for them.

According to CalRecycle, the DOJ’s case against Nieva was initiated by a referral from CalRecycle investigative auditors, who also provided technical assistance with DOJ’s execution of the search warrant that resulted in Nieva’s arrest.

The DOJ investigates and prosecutes criminal cases on behalf of CalRecycle, which has administrative authority over the state’s beverage container recycling program. During the course of its investigations, CalRecycle says that it may take actions to deny questionable reimbursement claims from recyclers, issue financial penalties against recycling operations that break the rules, and remove those who commit fraud from participating in the program. CalRecycle may also refer cases to the DOJ for possible criminal investigation.

In the case of Nieva, DOJ enforcement officers observed a 53-foot tractor-trailer deliver used beverage containers from Las Vegas to a storage yard in California. DOJ says Nieva was seen taking the containers directly from the storage yard to two processing centers and redeeming them for California Redemption Value (CRV).

Served with a search warrant, Nieva admitted he had been receiving a truckload of out-of-state plastic and aluminum beverage containers as many as six times per month for more than a year, resulting in more than $500,000 in illegal CRV claims. According to DOJ investigators, Nieva said the loads generally weighed between 4,000 and 8,000 pounds and consisted of both plastic and aluminum containers.

California’s bottle bill incentivizes beverage container recycling through CRV of $.05 for containers less than 24 ounces and $.10 for containers 24 ounces or larger. However, CRV only applies to beverages in qualifying containers that were purchased within the state, since the recycling fee is added to the price of the beverages sold in the state. CalRecycle estimates that between $30 million and $50 million a year is paid out in illegal redemptions for out-of-state containers that are not eligible for CRV.