An administrative hearing has affirmed the findings of a state investigation concluding that two companies and four individuals defrauded the state’s Beverage Container Recycling Program.
The Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), which conducted the investigation and presented its case before the Office of Administrative Law, has concurred with an administrative law judge’s ruling against Mission Fiber, Inc., Burbank Recycling, Inc., and the four individuals. During a three-year period ending in 2007, Burbank Recycling Inc. and its then-owner, Geoff Folsom, submitted illegal claims for out-of-state beverage containers, and Arizona-based Mission Fiber Group, a noncertified entity, illegally used a different recycling company’s certification number to conduct transactions with Burbank Recycling.
“Our investigation and the tireless work of our enforcement team uncovered the facts and made a convincing case,” CalRecycle Director Caroll Mortensen said. “The judgment will have lasting, negative consequences for these wrongdoers, and should serve as a warning to those looking to defraud California’s recycling fund.”
CalRecycle’s investigation revealed a highly complex scheme designed to siphon funds from California’s nation-leading beverage container recycling program. The Department found that Mission Fiber hired a trucking company to bring used beverage containers from across the country to Fontana and Long Beach. The company then used the stolen certification number and address on CalRecycle-required load forms to mask the true origin of the out-of-state materials, which cannot legally be redeemed for California Redemption Value. Mission Fiber then sold the materials to Burbank Recycling, which subsequently transferred CRV proceeds to various accounts under the Mission Fiber Group, and then claimed reimbursement and other costs from CalRecycle.
As a result of the judgment, the owners of Mission Fiber Group, Burbank Recycling Inc., as well as the four individuals, have been permanently barred from participating in any transactions involving the purchase, sale, transfer or storage of CRV beverage containers. Burbank Recycling Inc. had its certification permanently revoked. The entities are also collectively liable for reimbursing $32.6 million in fraudulent CRV claims, along with interest, civil penalties, and other costs.
The people and companies behind the fraud are:
· Mission Fiber Group Inc., an Arizona LLC with three other associated businesses: Benz Mission Fiber, an Arizona LLC registered and doing business in California; Benz Mission Fiber, unregistered but doing business in California; and Mission Inc., an Arizona corporation doing business in California
· OGO Trading, an Arizona LLC doing business in California
· David Scott Anderson, owner/partner/operator, Mission Fiber Group and OGO Trading
· Stephen Matthew Collins, owner/partner/operator, Mission Fiber Group and OGO Trading
· Burbank Recycling Inc., a California corporation
· Geoffrey Folsom, owner, Burbank Recycling
· Ben Sung, vice president, Burbank Recycling
The Burbank location has been restored as a beverage container recycling center for consumers, certified by CalRecycle under new management, and is reimbursing CRV to the public and accepting other recyclable material from residents and the city’s curbside program.
CalRecycle possesses civil and administrative authorities in combating fraud in the Beverage Container Recycling Program, including the ability to levy monetary fines, penalties including temporary decertification from the recycling program, and permanent revocation for more serious offenses. When investigations reveal potential criminal activity, CalRecycle partners with the California Department of Justice and local law enforcement, referring the case and providing information used for further investigation and subsequent prosecution, if warranted.
CalRecycle continues its multipronged effort to protect the recycling fund, including new approaches to curb fraud. Much of the emphasis is on preventing fraud before it occurs, such as enhanced training of recycling center owners, increased scrutiny of payment claims, and regulations that reduce the number of containers an individual can bring to a recycling center in a single day. New regulations also now require importers of out-of-state containers to enter California through California Department of Food and Agriculture agricultural inspection stations, declare they are importing empty beverage container materials, complete an Imported Material Report form, and submit to an inspection by CDFA agents.
California’s bottle bill provides an incentive for beverage container recycling by establishing a CRV of 5 cents for containers less than 24 ounces and 10 cents for containers 24 ounces or larger. However, CRV only applies to beverages in qualifying containers that were purchased within California, since
the recycling fee is added to the price of the beverages sold in the state. Out-of-state containers are not eligible for CRV.
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