LONG BEACH : Man Pleads Guilty to Recycling Fraud

The president of a Los Angeles-based scrap metal company with operations in Long Beach pleaded guilty last week to charges of recycling fraud.

Michael Baker, president of Unisource Metals Trading Corp., admitted that he purchased large bales of aluminum cans that had been redeemed for money and then illegally resold them, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Matthew Jacobs. Investigators determined that Baker, 45, had collected at least $117,500 from the illegal sales during a six-month period in 1990.

Baker, scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 11, faces a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, attorneys involved in the case said. The case is part of a large-scale investigation into recycling fraud by the U.S. attorney's office and the California Department of Conservation.

According to investigators, Baker would first legally purchase bales of cans that had already been turned in for money at California Redemption Value centers. He would purchase the bales at cheaper scrap metal prices, but instead of having the bales melted down, he would tear apart the bales at a Paramount warehouse, separate the cans and sell them back to the state recycling centers at the higher price.

Baker is free on his own recognizance pending sentencing in August.

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