Authorities say two Arizona men have been arrested in connection with defrauding a California fund designed to encourage recycling of more than $16 million.
The arrests are being hailed as part of the first-ever interstate cooperation between California state authorities and Arizona law enforcement agencies on a recycling fraud case.
Investigators spent five months looking into Bustillos Trucking for potentially bringing in out-of-state beverage containers to take advantage of the state's California Refund Value program.
In California, consumers pay an additional fee for beverages, either five or ten cents depending on the size of the container. That fee funds the CRV program, which pays people who recycle those containers. Since out-of-state containers would not have the fee imposed at the time of purchase, they are not eligible for the redemption program.
Over three years, authorities say Bustillos Trucking's owner, 49-year-old Miguel Bustillos of Glendale, operated his company "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.
About a month ago, investigators searched three locations where the company loaded beverage containers onto trucks bound for California. They found more than 19,000 pounds of empty aluminum beverage cans (worth an estimated $30,000) and more than 8,500 of empty plastic beverage containers (worth an estimated nearly $11,000).
Truck driver 57-year-old Anthony Sanchez, of Tucson, was also arrested, along with suspected broker Amaury Avila-Medina in California.
All three will face charges of felony recycling fraud and attempted grand theft, and if convicted could spend up to three years behind bars, in addition to fees, court-ordered restitution, and the loss of license and/or vehicle.