5 indicted for defrauding state recycling program out of $80.3 million largest fraud of its kind

Five individuals have been charged with defrauding California’s recycling program out of $80.3 million by getting recycled containers from other states like Arizona and trucking them into California where they sold them to the state. It’s not clear how the scheme affected other states’ recycling programs. There is no difference between cans and bottles sold in California and in other states, making it difficult for authorities to stop smugglers from bringing in containers sold elsewhere to be recycled in California. The owner and four employees of Recycling Services Alliance Corporation are charged with swindling the state’s beverage container recycling program over several years by accepting recyclables purchased in other states and faking the paperwork, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced.California authorities said it’s the largest ever alleged fraud involving the 5- or 10-cent deposits consumers pay on certain beverage containers. The self-funded program has recently been having substantial financial problems leading to the closure of many of the state’s private recycling centers.

Consumers can recoup the deposits by turning in the containers at recycling centers. Centers are responsible for accepting only eligible bottles and cans that were sold in California.

Company owner Shengchien Tseng, 49, of Cupertino, and employees Maximina Perez, 50, of San Leandro; Alejandra Lazaro-Martinez, 26, of Hayward; Veronica Castillo, 35, of Sacramento; and Marlene Davalos-Mendez, 28, of Rocklin, were indicted in December on 166 counts including grand theft, recycling fraud, perjury and conspiracy.

In May 2015, the department announced that in March of that year a Kern County grand jury indicted five people on charges of trucking in more than 200 million cans and bottles from Arizona to collect about $14 million in refunds.