Digital Version of November/December 2014 Print Edition
ICE helps in environmental fraud investigation, conviction
Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigators helped bring a Colorado environmental waste-recycling company and two of its executives to justice after they illegally smuggled electronic waste out of the country.
The Denver-area environmental waste-recycling company, Executive Recycling Inc. and two of its executives were convicted on Dec. 21 of multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, obstruction and environmental crimes related to illegally disposing electronic waste and smuggling.
After an 11-day trial in a Denver federal courthouse, the jury in the case deliberated for two-and-a-half days before reaching their verdicts against Executive Recycling, the company’s owner and chief executive officer Brandon Richter, 38, and Tor Olson, 37, the company’s former vice president of operations.
Executive Recycling Inc., Richter and Olson were indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver in September, 2011 and their trial began Dec. 3, 2012. The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced in April 2013.
According to the indictment and trial evidence, Executive Recycling Inc. was an electronic waste-recycling business in Englewood, CO with affiliated locations in Utah and Nebraska. The company collected electronic waste from private households, businesses and government entities. Executive Recycling was registered with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as a "Large Quantity Handler of Universal Waste."
A significant portion of electronic waste collected by the defendants were cathode ray tubes (CRTs) -- the glass video display components of an electronic device, usually a computer or television monitor, and are known to contain lead, said court documents.
The company, Richter and Olson exported electronic waste, including CRTs, to foreign countries, including the People's Republic of China, it said and they regularly negotiated the sale of electronic waste to brokers who represented foreign buyers or who sold the electronic waste overseas. The foreign buyers often paid the defendants directly. To transport the electronic waste, the defendants used cargo containers loaded at the company's facility. The containers were then transported by rail to domestic ports for export overseas.
Court documents showed that Executive Recycling Inc. appeared as the exporter of record in over 300 exports from the U.S. between 2005 and 2008, with about 160 of those exported containers containing a total of more than 100,000 CRTs.
Between 2005 and January 2009, said court documents, the men schemed to defraud various business and government entities who wanted to dispose of their electronic waste, representing themselves on a website to have "extensive knowledge of current EPA requirements."
They also falsely told customers that they would dispose of electronic waste in compliance with all local, state and federal environmental laws and regulations. Specifically, they said they would dispose of the recycled electronic waste "properly, right here in the U.S." They also said that they wouldn’t send the electronic waste overseas. In spite of the claims, the men sold the electronic waste they received from customers to brokers for export overseas to the People's Republic of China and other countries.
Executive Recycling Inc. faces a $500,000 fine per count for even wire fraud counts, or twice the gross gain or loss. The corporation also faces a conviction for one count of failure to file notification of intent to export hazardous waste, which carries a penalty of a $50,000 fine per day of violation, or twice the gross gain or loss. The corporation also faces one count of exporting contrary to law, which carries a $500,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss.
"This criminal conviction demonstrates that there are no shortcuts to following U.S. export laws," said Kumar Kibble, special agent in charge of HSI Denver. "For years this company also deceived the public by falsely advertising an environmentally friendly U.S. recycling business plan. Instead, it regularly exported obsolete and discarded electronic equipment with toxic materials to third-world countries, and took actions to illegally hide these practices from government officials."
"The trial team, including our prosecutors and staff, ICE HSI and the EPA, deserves the thanks of the public for their outstanding work during this ground-breaking environmental investigation that also involved a case of first impression in export control and complex criminal trial," said U.S. Attorney John Walsh.