Executive Recycling to appeal guilty verdict

Executive Recycling to appeal guilty verdict

By Jake Thomas, Resource Recycling

The trial of Executive Recycling and two of its top officials may have ended with a guilty verdict, but the saga isn't over yet.

On Dec. 21, a jury convicted Colorado-based Executive Recycling, CEO Brandon Richter, and former vice president of operations, Tor Olson, on multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, as well as illegally exporting hazardous material to China – specifically CRTs. This is the first time anyone has been convicted in the U.S. of exporting e-scrap to developing countries. Pamela Mackey, the attorney representing Executive Recycling and Ricther, told E-Scrap News that the verdict will be appealed after sentencing in April. She says she will stay on the case through sentencing and another attorney will prepare the appeal.

Mackey says the case will be appealed on grounds that the judge sent instructions to the jury that distorted the wording of relevant hazardous waste regulations. According to Mackey, the used electronics being handled by Executive Recycling did not classify as hazardous waste under Colorado law. Because the material was not hazardous waste it was not subject to federal export requirements and neither the company nor Richter broke any laws, according to Mackey.

"The jury was, in our view, erroneously instructed on what the regulations were at the time of the incident that gave rise to the indictment," she says.

The prosecution argued that Executive Recycling, Richter and Olson devised a scheme to defraud Colorado businesses and government entities by presenting themselves as a responsible company that would legally recycle their electronics, but instead illicitly shipped it to China. The defendants faced 13 counts of wire and mail fraud for their dealings with specific government and business entities as part of the scheme. The jury found Richter guilty on only seven of these counts and not guilty on the others. The jury reached the same verdict for Executive Recycling.

Mackey says she does not understand why the jury found the company and Richter guilty on some of these counts and not guilty on others.

"The only thing I can guess, and it's no more than a guess, is that they didn't think there was a scheme to defraud," she says. "If the jury concluded there was a scheme to defraud they would have convicted on everything."

During the trial, Mackey learned information that lead her to conclude that she had a conflict of interest in the trial and couldn't provide an adequate defense for the company or Richter. The judge denied her motion to withdraw from the case, and she says this will be brought up during the appeal process.

Jim Puckett, executive director of the Basel Action Network, told E-Scrap News that cases like these are very difficult to prosecute using existing environmental laws. He says that individuals working in enforcement have told him that these laws are a "nightmare to use." However, he added that he expects more cases like these in the future.

"I get the sense that they're trying to make an example," he says.

A call to the U.S. attorney that prosecuted the case was not returned. Neither was a call to the lawyer representing Olson.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency did not answer specific questions submitted by E-Scrap News. However, in an email statement from the agency states that it "continues to investigate leads involving allegations of e-waste crimes and will open a formal criminal investigation when the fact pattern of a case suggests that a serious and most likely knowing violation of federal law has occurred."

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