California authorities say that they have arrested three people after uncovering a trucking company’s multi-million dollar recycling fraud scheme.
On Monday, December 3, the California Department of Justice announced that they arrested three trucking company operators — Owner Miguel Bustillos, truck driver Anthony Sanchez, and suspected broker Amaury Avila-Medina — on charges of recycling fraud, conspiracy, and grand theft for their alleged role in a massive recycling fraud ring.
The arrests came after a five month investigation during which California officials teamed up with the Arizona Department of Public Safety to investigate suspected criminal activity conducted by Bustillos’ Trucking.
Authorities say that for three years, Bustillos’ Trucking and their operators brought containers from beverages sold in Arizona across state lines into California to be redeemed as part of California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program — which only accepts beverage containers from drinks purchased in California.
The recycling program pays out 5 to 10 cents per eligible bottle or can, and over the course of three years, investigators say that Bustillos’ Trucking helped rake in a total of $16.1 million.
The truck drivers hauling the smuggled recyclables reportedly went out of their way to avoid stopping at weigh stations, according to USA Today.
During the arrest of the three men at a collection yard in Phoenix, authorities seized 27,860 pounds of empty bottles and cans that could have been redeemed for an estimated $41,836.80.
Eight of the company’s truck drivers were already arrested back in April on charges related to the smuggling ring, including felony recycling fraud, conspiracy and attempted grand theft.
The California Department of Justice says that Bustillos’ Trucking was created specifically to conduct recycling fraud.