Alleged scammer arrested in recycling fraud border bust

SACRAMENTO (KRON) — A truck driver faces charges of smuggling used recyclables across the California border in an attempt to defraud the California Redemption Value (CRV) fund, according to state officials on Tuesday.

CalRecycle says 42-year-old Cesar Vargas of Compton is the third person arrested just this year on charges of illegally hauling recyclables from out-of-state as part of a CRV fraud scam. Investigators say Vargas attempted to redeem more than $7,000 worth of plastic and aluminum used beverage containers from Arizona.

Officials say on June 23, a California Department of Justice Recycling Fraud Team was conducting surveillance on recycling centers in Phoenix, when agents spotted a trailer being loaded with used beverage containers at an undocumented business. Agents kept the driver of the truck under surveillance.

More than three hours later the semi arrived in Riverside County, where the driver, later identified as Vargas was questioned at an agricultural checkpoint. The suspect told inspectors his trailer was empty, according to officials. A subsequent inspection revealed that Vargas had transported almost 7,000 pounds of plastic and aluminum used beverage containers across the border, officials said.

Vargas was arrested on recycling fraud and attempted grand theft charges, and his truck was impounded.

Recycling Fraud Team agents made two similar arrests at agricultural checkpoints earlier this year: one in Yermo, Calif., and another at the Blythe Agricultural Checkpoint where Vargas was detained.

“Our enforcement partners with the California Department of Justice’s Recycling Fraud Team are relentless when it comes to locating, surveilling and ultimately disrupting these CRV fraud schemes,” CalRecycle Acting Director Ken DaRosa said. “From the monitoring of recycling centers, in-state and out-of-state, to the continued vigilance at California’s border agricultural checkpoints, illegal haulers should know that we are going all-out to shut them down.”

State officials say California’s Beverage Container Recycling and Litter Reduction Act incentivizes recycling through a CRV fee paid by California consumers at the time of purchase and refunded upon return of the empty containers. Since the fee is not paid by out-of-state residents, out-of-state beverage containers are not eligible for CRV redemption.

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