E-scrap processor found guilty of illegal exporting

E-scrap processor found guilty of illegal exporting

By Jake Thomas, Resource Recycling

Electronics recycling company Executive Recycling and two of its top executives have been convicted of multiple federal counts of mail and wire fraud and illegally exporting hazardous material.

The convictions for the Colorado-based company, along with its CEO, Brandon Richter, and Tor Olson, its former vice president of operations, comes after an 11-day trial that began on Dec. 3, followed by two and a half days for jury deliberations.

The executives and the company were indicted in September of last year as a result of an investigation by environmental justice group the Basel Action Network (BAN) that also brought more scrutiny to the issue of illicit exports of used electronics from the media and the federal government.

Executive Recycling, which also has in Nebraska and Utah, presented itself as a responsible electronics recycling company that didn’t export the material it collected from private households, businesses and government entities overseas for processing.

The jury found that the company and the two executives defrauded government agencies and private businesses by offering to recycle their used electronics in compliance with all relevant laws, but instead illegally shipped the material overseas. Specifically, the jury found that the company and its executives sent cathode ray tubes (CRTs) to China.

"This criminal conviction demonstrates that there are no shortcuts to following U.S. export laws," said Kumar Kibble, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations in Denver, in a prepared statement. "For years this company also deceived the public by falsely advertising an environmentally friendly U.S. recycling business plan. Instead, it regularly exported obsolete and discarded electronic equipment with toxic materials to third-world countries, and took actions to illegally hide these practices from government officials."

According to a statement from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Executive Recycling appeared as the exporter of record in over 300 shipments from the U.S. between 2005 and 2008. About 160 of the exported cargo containers contained a total of more than 100,000 CRTs.

Court records state that the jury did not convict the company nor its executives on all counts of fraud. Records also show that while Executive Recycling was found guilty on two counts of illegally exporting e-scrap, Richter and Olson were each found guilty on only one count. Additionally, Richter was found guilty of altering documents, while Olson was found not guilty of the same charge. Sentencing for Richter and Olson will take place in April.

Executive Recycling Inc. as a corporation faces a $500,000 fine for each of the seven wire fraud counts, or twice the gross gain or loss. The company also faces a fine of $50,000 for each day it did not file the proper notification to export hazardous waste, or twice the gross gain or loss. The company was also slapped with a fine of $500,000, or twice the gross gain or loss, for illegally exporting CRTs.

In a statement, BAN cheered the convictions, but argued that the case highlights that more need to be done to halt the shipment of e-scrap to the developing world.

“Executive Recycling was caught this time,” Jim Puckett, the organization’s executive director, said in a prepared statement. “But it has been almost impossible for the government to prosecute this kind of very common activity due to a lack of appropriate legislation.”

The statement claimed that federal laws on exporting hazardous material are vague and ineffective, making this case difficult to prosecute. BAN also argues that the case highlights why Congress needs to pass legislation that would ban the export of used electronics to developing countries.

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