Five Southland residents accused in $14-million recycling fraud scheme

Five people have been indicted in a $14-million recycling fraud scheme that involved illegally cashing in on out-of-state containers.

Gonzalo Rodriguez and Belen Gonzales, both of Piru; James Gonzales and Mario Mendoza of Bakersfield; and Adriana Rodriguez of Sylmar were indicted by a Kern County grand jury on grand theft and recycling fraud charges, authorities said Thursday.


Gonzalo Rodriguez allegedly organized the scheme and relied on family members who operated or were associated with recycling centers to redeem about $14 million in fraudulent material from 2012 to 2014, according to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery.

The ploy focused on 24 recycling centers in Southern California that sent people out of state to load up on used beverage containers and then tried to cash them in for the California Redemption Value fee, authorities said.

As a result of the scheme, program certifications for 20 recycling centers were terminated and four others voluntarily dropped out of the program, according to the resources recycling and recovery department, which also investigated the case.

Investigators with the California Department of Justice's Recycling Fraud Team began investigating the centers in September 2013 when they saw Los Angeles County-based Rodriguez Recycling importing used beverage containers from Arizona.

Then in April 2014, fraud investigators traveled to Phoenix and saw used beverage containers being loaded onto a semi-truck destined for a dirt lot in Bakersfield.

The containers were off-loaded into a U-Haul truck and placed onto a 53-foot trailer, according to the recycling and recovery department.

Mendoza delivered two loads of beverage containers to Sequoia Resources in Bakersfield, where he was arrested.

The loads were made in the names of S&S Recycling, Ignacio Recycling and Gonzalez Recycling, operated by James Gonzales.

The resources recycling and recovery department refused to pay for the loads, which totaled $100,000.

Four of the five people indicted are being held in a Kern County jail. Adriana Rodriguez remains at large.

The CRV fee is an incentive for California residents to recycle material. Out-of-state consumers and containers are ineligible.

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