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Fabricated bottle and can weights led to a $140.5 million bill for Recycling Services Alliance. | Zolnierek/Shutterstock

Recycling Services Alliance must pay $140.5 million under the state of California’s final decision in a yearslong bottle and can smuggling case. 

Sacramento-based Recycling Services Alliance and its operations manager, Maximina Perez, previously agreed to pay criminal judgments of $53.9 million in an earlier plea deal. A final agency decision from the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) also requires them to pay $86.6 million in restitution and interest for illegally filing claims for California Refund Value (CRV) on bottles and cans with thousands of fabricated weight tickets. 

The case began in 2015, when CalRecycle notified the California Department of Justice that the RSA facility may illegally be redeeming out-of-state beverage containers. CalRecycle suspended the company’s certification, leading Recycling Services Alliance to sue the state agency. 

A grand jury indicted the company, Perez and other company officials in December 2017. They were then convicted of recycling fraud and ordered to pay $53.9 million in damages. 

The final decision document from Feb. 15 noted that CalRecycle is authorized by law to collect in restitution the full amount paid out on fabricated tickets, not just the difference between the actual weight and falsified weight. That full value is $80.2 million, plus $6.4 million in interest. 

Administrative Law Judge Danette Brown, who heard the case, initially proposed reducing the restitution amount to $8 million and interest of $600,000, calling it “excessive and unfair” to assess the entirety of the payment, considering the criminal restitution order. But Brown did not cite any statutory authority or other legal basis for the reduction, and CalRecycle rejected it. 

Commenting on the final decision, CalRecycle Director Rachel Machi Wagoner said in a statement that “this decision sends a message that criminals are held accountable for defrauding California’s Beverage Container Recycling Program, which has kept 491 billion bottles and cans out of our streets and waterways.” 

The state has made 377 recycling fraud arrests since 2010, the press release added. 

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