Fortune – The family that made $7.6 million from recycling cans and bottles was just charged with fraud

By Chris Morris, FORTUNE

Recycling proved especially lucrative to a California family, who pocketed $7.6 million from bringing used bottles and cans to California facilities. Now, though, the state is accusing the clan of fraud, grand theft, and conspiracy. 

Officials, in a criminal complaint, allege that the eight family members imported 178 tons of recyclables over the course of an eight-month period from Arizona, then recycled them in California. The state charges consumers an extra five or 10 cents when they buy a drink in a plastic or aluminum bottle for what’s called the California Redemption Value (CRV). Consumers can get that deposit back when they return the containers to the state’s recycling centers.

State Attorney General Rob Bonta says the family in question (who have different last names) effectively stole from consumers by bringing in the additional containers from a state that does not charge a CRV fee. (Only materials from California are eligible for redemption.)

“California’s recycling program is funded by consumers, and helps protect our environment and our communities,” said Bonta in a statement. “Those who try to undermine its integrity through criminal operations will be held accountable.”

This isn’t the first time the state has prosecuted someone for allegedly bringing in bottles and cans from other states. Last May, the California Department of Justice charged six people with fraud in connection with what it said was a $10 million recycling fraud scheme.

And some estimates suggest that between $40 million up to $200 million is stolen from the California beverage container recycling program each year.

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