set for recycling center owner accused in $7 million can conspiracy
Bail of $300,000 was set for a Riverside County
recycling center owner arrested along with two employees in October
by special agents with the Attorney General’s office for bilking
California’s beverage container recycling program out of $7 million.
Bail was set at $30,000 each for the two employees.
“These people pretended to be recycling California aluminum cans
when they were really importing tons of cans from Arizona, which
are not eligible for California’s recycling refunds,” Attorney
General Edmund G. Brown Jr. said.
Howard Leveson, owner of Perris Valley Recycling in Perris, Riverside
County; Jose Barragan, the center’s general manager, and Susie
Ambriz-Molina, an office worker, were arrested October 12. Leveson
was also charged with illegal possession of an assault weapon.
They face a total of 18 felony counts on charges including recycling
fraud, grand theft and conspiracy. If convicted of all charges,
they could each spend seven years in prison.
Agents with the Attorney General’s office, working with the Department
of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), conducted the
investigation with the help of the Riverside County Sheriff’s
Department. The Attorney General’s office is prosecuting the
case. CalRecycle oversees the state’s beverage container recycling
A search of Leveson’s home and business recovered $50,973 in
cash and an Uzi assault rifle. In addition, Leveson’s assets
and those of his business were frozen, including $4.2 million
in bank accounts.
From February 2009 until July 2010, Perris Valley Recycling collected
as much as 10,000 pounds per day in aluminum cans, far more than
comparable facilities, which average about 500 pounds per day.
The unusually high volume indicated the possibility that out-of-state
containers were being brought to the facility.
In Arizona, aluminum is sold only for its scrap value. California,
however, has the added incentive of the California Refund Value
(CRV) deposit, which pays $1.57 for a pound of used aluminum
Investigators estimate Perris Valley Recycling took in 4.4 million
pounds of cans trucked from Arizona, then illegally claimed as
much as $7 million in reimbursement from the California Beverage
Container Recycling Fund.
As a deterrent to such fraud, recycling centers are required
to report to CalRecycle purchases of more than 250 pounds of
aluminum CRV material. According to investigators, Perris Valley
Recycling hid the size of incoming loads by creating multiple
weight tickets for trucks coming in with loads larger than 250
pounds, making it appear they were many individuals with smaller
Over the past 5 months, 20 people have been arrested for making
deliveries of out-of-state containers to the Perris center, whose
slogan is “It’s Not Trash, It’s Cash.” Perris Valley Recycling
remains open, however CalRecycle continues to conduct inspections
and has placed restrictions on the center’s reimbursement claims.
In California, consumers pay CRV at the checkout stand when purchasing
beverages in bottles or cans. When the empty container is redeemed
at one of California’s more than 2,000 recycling centers, the
CRV is returned to the consumer. Recycling centers recoup the
CRV from the state and then make money by reselling the materials
for scrap value. When an out-of-state can or bottle is fraudulently
redeemed in California, the program loses money.
California’s program began in 1987. Last year, 82 percent of
the CRV cans and bottles purchased in the state were returned
for recycling. California is one of 11 states with a bottle and
can redemption program.