Arrests made in $16 million California recycling fraud

Arrests made in $16 million California recycling fraud

Agents takedown Arizona trucking company for smuggling out-of-state beverage containers into California.

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December 3, 2018
Kelly Maile

California authorities have arrested three individuals for defrauding a California publicly funded program, which pays people 5 to 10 cents for recycled beverage containers.

Following a five-month investigation, agents believe the suspects have been using an Arizona trucking company to smuggle out-of-state containers into California to take advantage of the California Redemption Value (CRV) fund for the past three years.

The takedown is the first collaboration between the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, the California Department of Justice and the Arizona Department of Public Safety on a recycling fraud cause.

“The cross-border partnership between the California Department of Justice and Arizona’s law enforcement community sends a clear signal that organized criminal groups have no safe space to operate recycling fraud schemes,” CalRecycle Director Scott Smithline says. “CalRecycle and its law enforcement partners will continue to follow these investigations wherever they lead to protect public funds and the integrity of California’s beverage container recycling program.”

Authorities say 49-year-old Miguel Bustillos operated his company, Bustillos Trucking, for the “sole purpose of smuggling out-of-state containers into California to defraud the California Redemption Value fund" of an estimated $16.1 million, according to a news release.

In November, agents searched three known locations where used beverage containers were packed and loaded onto California bound trucks and found 19,300 pounds of aluminum empty beverage containers worth $30,880 and 8,560 pounds of plastic empty beverage containers worth $10,957.

Truck driver Anthony Sanchez, 57, of Tucson, Arizona, and broker Amaury Avila-Medina, 56, of Sylmar, California, were also arrested.

All three will face charges of felony recycling fraud, attempted grand theft and conspiracy.