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Recycling Fraud Leads To Jail Time For Oakland Man, 3 Washington Residents

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- An Oakland man is headed to jail for recycling fraud, according to CalRecycle, the state department charged with improving conservation through recycling and waste management.

Mario Morales Nolasco ran afoul of the law by importing empty bottles and cans from Washington state and fraudulently redeeming them in California, according to Mark Oldfield, spokesman for CalRecycle.

Recycled containers purchased out of state aren't eligible to collect the California Redemption Value, 5 cents for small containers and 10 cents for large ones.

The redemption fee is added on to the price of beverages sold in California and distributed from the state's Beverage Container Recycling Fund.

"Fraud against the Beverage Container Recycling Fund is theft from the people of California," CalRecycle director Caroll Mortensen said.

CalRecycle is cracking down on recycling fraud, Mortensen said.

Nolasco was certified by CalRecycle to collect containers from bars and restaurants and trade them in for the redemption fee, Oldfield said.

But an investigation by the California Department of Justice found that he was traveling to Shelton, Wash., to collect empty aluminum cans and return them to California to cash them in, Oldfield said.

He regularly transported loads of 1,800 pounds, the Department of Justice found.

The investigation also found that three Washington residents, Maria Garcia Nicasio, Saul Chavez and Francisco Reyes-Barrios, were working with Nolasco on the scheme, Oldfield said.

Department of Justice agents arrested the four suspects on Jan. 26 after they sold 9,000 pounds of aluminum containers for $13,320 at a California processing facility using Nolasco's certification, Oldfield said.

Agents seized $18,780 from Nolasco and Nicasio, according to Oldfield. The suspects were booked into Alameda County Jail on charges of conspiracy, grand theft and recycling fraud.

The investigation found the suspects had defrauded the recycling fund of $329,887, according to Oldfield.

Nolasco and Nicasio pleaded no contest to felony charges and Chavez and Reyes-Barrios pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges in Alameda County Superior Court on March 6.

Chavez and Reyes-Barrios were sentenced to 76 days in jail and three years' probation. Chavez will have to pay $8,000 in restitution to CalRecycle and Reyes-Barrios will have to pay $4,000.

Nolasco and Nicasio will be sentenced Wednesday.

According to the sentencing agreement, Nolasco will serve 178 days in jail, five years' probation and pay $146,000 in restitution.

Nicasio will serve 120 days in jail, five years of probation and pay $9,999 in restitution.


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