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A Family Turned a Scheme to Reward People for Recycling Into a Scam; Here's how They Did it

California's Department of Justice discovered a Riverside County recycling centers with over $1 million in illegally imported beverage containers.
Image Source: andresr/Getty Images
Image Source: andresr/Getty Images

Recycling is essential for a clean future and rewarding people for such an activity definitely encourages them to adopt sustainable practices. But when it comes to scams, anything that involves money can be turned around into an elaborate scheme to siphon off cash. In an intriguing turn of events, a family of eight finds themselves in the eye of a storm, as they stand accused of orchestrating a fraudulent scheme that has left California authorities baffled. 

The family of eight stand accused of engaging in a recycling caper of epic proportions, allegedly smuggling a whopping 178 tons of aluminum cans and plastic bottles all the way from Arizona to California aiming to cash in on the recycling programs of the Golden State.

Image Source: Andriy/Getty Images
Image Source: Andriy/Getty Images

These eight family members are facing serious charges, including recycling fraud, grand theft, and conspiracy. Their alleged actions led to a sum of $7.6 million being taken off from California's beverage container recycling program over an eight-month period. It's a financial sleight of hand that has raised more than a few eyebrows.

California's recycling program is funded by consumers and plays a pivotal role in safeguarding the environment and our local communities. This program allows residents to exchange their empty cans and bottles for a modest return, either 5 or 10 cents, on eligible beverage containers. However, only materials originating from within California are eligible for this redemption.

The family lives in Arizona, where they don't have a program where you can get money back for recycling bottles and cans. This is quite different from California, where you can get a small amount of money back when you recycle certain containers. This policy gap between the two states is what the family allegedly exploited as a plan to trick California's recycling system.

Now, these family members are facing serious criminal charges, with authorities making it clear that those who attempt to compromise the integrity of California's recycling initiatives through illicit activities will be held accountable.

Image Source: Kypros/Getty Images
Image Source: Kypros/Getty Images

In October 2022, the Department of Justice for the state initiated an investigation into a group of recycling centers located in Riverside County, Southern California. During this probe, law enforcement agents raided six different locations, and discovered over $1 million worth of illegally imported beverage containers.

In response to these alleged fraudulent activities, CalRecycle will also be taking measures against the recycling centers involved, as stated by officials. The individuals facing charges have been identified as Maria Ermelinda Saenz Gonzalez, Francisco Balmore Amaya Saenz, Jose Raul Chica, Jose Antonio Interiano Martinez, Jose Alfredo Giron Henriquez, Victor Manuel Hernandez, Manuela Rodriguez Rizo, and Genaro Solis Fuentes.

Image Source: Andrew Fox/Getty Images
Image Source: Andrew Fox/Getty Images

Prosecutors have requested bail amounts of $30,000 for most of the defendants, with an exception for Balmore Amaya Saenz, for whom they have proposed a $50,000 bail, and Solis Fuentes, for whom they've suggested a $10,000 bail.