Family charged for smuggling millions in recyclables from Ariz. to SoCal

The smuggling scam – centered in Riverside County – is a real-life riff of a Seinfeld storyline from the 1990s.

California prosecutors have charged eight family members with defrauding millions of dollars from the state’s recycling program by smuggling aluminum cans and plastic bottles from Arizona.

The charges, including grand theft, conspiracy, and recycling fraud, allege that the family redeemed approximately $7.6 million using the smuggled containers.


The backstory: By using containers purchased out of state, the suspects were able to redeem money that had never been charged by California’s beverage container recycling program, which charges an extra 5 or 10 cents for recyclable containers.

  • Investigators discovered that the group smuggled 178 tons of cans and bottles from October of the previous year to various unofficial recycling centers in Riverside County.
  • Following the charges, search warrants were executed at six locations, leading to the seizure of over $1 million and an unspecified amount of suspected out-of-state beverage containers.

What they’re saying: California Attorney General Rob Bonta emphasized the importance of the state’s recycling program, stating, “California’s recycling program is funded by consumers, and helps protect our environment and our communities. Those who try to undermine its integrity through criminal operations will be held accountable.”

  • This case is the latest recycling fraud conspiracy to be uncovered by investigators, with six individuals being charged in a similar case the previous year.
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