Executive Recycling, Inc. (a corporation), Brandon Richter, age 38, of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, who was the owner and chief executive officer, and Tor Olson, age 37, of Parker, Colorado, former vice president of operations, were convicted of multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, environmental crimes related to the illegal disposal of electronic waste, smuggling, and obstruction, following a 11-day trial. The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Martinez sometime in April 2013.
“The improper disposal of electronic waste not only hurts our environment, it also leaves a legacy of environmental hazards for our children and our children’s children,” said U.S. Attorney John Walsh. “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.”
“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 United States is a world leader in the manufacture and consumption of electronics and we have a responsibility to ensure they are disposed of properly,” said Jeffrey Martinez, EPA’s Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program in Colorado. “Many of these worn-out electronics are illegally exported to developing countries where people risk their health and the environment to retrieve the valuable materials left in them. Today’s guilty verdicts demonstrate that the American people will not tolerate the flagrant violation of laws that harm the environment and people of the developing world.”
According to the indictment, as well as the facts presented at trial, Executive Recycling was an electronic waste recycling business located in Englewood, Colorado 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.” Richter, as owner and CEO, was responsible for supervising all aspects of the company. Olson, the vice president of operations, was responsible for running day-to-day operations.
A significant portion of electronic waste collected by the defendants were Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs). CRTs are the glass video display component of an electronic device, usually a computer or television monitor, and are known to contain lead. The defendants engaged in the practice of exporting electronic waste, including CRTs, from the United States to foreign countries, including the People’s Republic of China. The defendants 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 shipping cargo containers which were loaded at the company’s facility. The containers were then transported by rail to domestic ports for export overseas.
Executive Recycling appeared as the exporter of record in over 300 exports from the United States between 2005 and 2008. Approximately 160 of these exported cargo containers contained a total of more than 100,000 CRTs.
Between February 2005 and continuing through January 2009, the defendants knowingly devised and intended to devise a scheme to defraud various business and government entities who wanted to dispose of their electronic waste, and to obtain these business and government entities’ money by means of materially false and fraudulent pretenses. The defendants represented themselves on a website to have “extensive knowledge of current EPA requirements.” The defendants falsely advertised to customers that they would dispose of electronic waste in compliance with all local, state and federal laws and regulations. It was part of the scheme that the defendants falsely represented that they would dispose of all electronic waste, whether hazardous or not, in an environmentally friendly manner. Specifically, the defendants falsely represented that the defendant company recycled electronic waste “properly, right here in the U.S.” They also stated that they would not send the electronic waste overseas.
The defendants’ misrepresentation induced customers to enter into contracts or agreements with the defendants for electronic waste disposal. Each victim paid the defendants to recycle their electronic waste in accordance with the representations made by the defendants. Contrary to their representations, the defendants 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 as a corporation faces a $500,000 fine per count for 7 wire fraud counts, or twice the gross gain or loss. The corporation 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 a one count of exportation contrary to law, which carries a penalty $500,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss.
Richter and Olson each face 7 counts of wire fraud, each count of which carries a penalty of not more than 20 years imprisonment and up to a $250,000 fine. They face one count exportation contrary to law, which carries a penalty of not more than 10 years imprisonment, and up to a $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss, or both. Lastly, Defendant Richter faces one count of destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in Federal investigations and bankruptcy, which carries a penalty of not more than 20 years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000. There is also an asset forfeiture allegation, which states that upon conviction the defendants shall forfeit to the United States any and all property or proceeds derived from their illegal activity.
Wow! These guys got what was coming to them, didn’t they?
I know the first thing that came to mind was what did they promise their customers? What did their website look like? Did they claim to have any certifications, such as the top notch e-stewards or the shady looking R2?
Let’s take a look at their About page. If you try to go to Executive Recycling, it redirects to another e-waste recycling company…who are these Techcycle guys? A little loophole I found allows me to get around this: check them out on Wikipedia (why they’re on there is odd to begin with) and click the link to their page at the bottom of the article. Bam! We’re in.
The About page has no mention of being certified at all…for all of you out there looking to recycle your electronics, ask/look for the e-stewards certification. Any facility that has this will definitely want you to know they met its ISO 14001 standards: no prison labor, no exporting, no incinerating or landfilling of toxic materials.
It’s a bit sad how vague their page is…when you compare it to other companies it seems so obvious how lame they are. I wonder how many companies out there are looking deeper into their e-waste recyclers as a result of this incident…