Arizona Family Faces Prison For Recycling Across State Lines

A California family that earned millions of dollars just by recycling cans and bottles has now been accused of multiple felonies that could lead to years behind bars. In a complaint filed this month, state prosecutors charged 8 family members in Riverside County with defrauding the state by transporting used bottles and cans from Arizona — some 178 tons in 8 months — to a recycling center in California. The recycling operation earned the family $7.6 million, according to a statement from the office of California's Attorney General, Rob Bonta. Investigators also found a stash of "illegally imported beverage containers" worth another $1 million. When someone purchases a plastic or aluminum bottle in California, they typically pay an extra 5¢ to 10¢ in "California Redemption Value,” which the consumer can get back by returning the items to one of the state's more than 1,200 recycling centers. Arizona has no such program. Prosecutors accused family members of unlawfully conspiring to commit grand theft and defrauding the California recycling program on a "chronic and ongoing basis" by seeking reimbursement for out-of-state containers and containers that had already been redeemed within California. Felony grand theft in California is punishable by up to 3 years in state prison, and the fact that the family was redeeming out-of-state containers could increase that sentence by another 3 years.