DENVER — A Denver-area environmental waste-recycling company and two of its executives were convicted Friday of multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, obstruction and environmental crimes related to illegally disposing electronic waste and smuggling.
This conviction announcement was made by U.S. Attorney John Walsh, District of Colorado; Special Agent in Charge Kumar Kibble with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Denver; and Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey Martinez of the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Criminal Investigation Division.
Following an 11-day trial, the jury deliberated for two-and-a-half days before reaching their verdicts against Executive Recycling Inc. (a corporation), Brandon Richter, 38, of Highlands Ranch, Colo., who was the owner and chief executive officer, and Tor Olson, 37, of Parker, Colo., former vice president of operations.
Executive Recycling Inc., as a corporation, Brandon Richter and Tor Olson were indicted by a federal grand jury in Denver Sept. 15, 2011. The jury trial before U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martinez began Dec. 3, 2012. The jury reached their verdicts Dec. 21. The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Martinez 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 Inc. was an electronic waste-recycling business located in Englewood, Colo., with affiliated locations in Utah and Nebraska. The company collected electronic waste from private households, businesses and government entities. Executive Recycling Inc. 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 components of an electronic device, usually a computer or television monitor, and are known to contain lead. The defendants exported electronic waste, including CRTs, 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 Inc. appeared as the exporter of record in over 300 exports from the United States between 2005 and 2008. About 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 under 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 Inc. as a corporation faces a $500,000 fine per count for seven 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 one count of exporting contrary to law, which carries a $500,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss.