Electronic waste recycling firm Executive Recycling has been convicted of multiple crimes, including environmental violations related to illegal disposal of e-waste overseas, mail and wire fraud, and smuggling and obstruction, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.
Brandon Richter, 38, of Highlands Ranch, Colorado, who was the company's owner and CEO, and Tor Olson, 37, of Parker, Colorado, former vice president of operations, were convicted Friday along with the Colorado company following an 11-day trial in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado.
The company told customers it disposed of CRTs (cathode ray tubes) and other e-waste in an environmentally friendly manner and did not send the e-waste overseas. However, the company shipped CRTs and other waste to China and other countries, the DOJ said in a press release.
Executive Recycling was the subject of a 2010 "60 Minutes" story about e-waste being recycled in crude conditions overseas.
The defendants falsely advertised to customers that they would dispose of electronic waste in compliance with all local, state and federal laws and regulations, the DOJ said. 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.
The defendants falsely represented that the company recycled electronic waste "properly, right here in the U.S.," the DOJ said.
From February 2005 to January 2009, the defendants used "false and fraudulent pretenses" to defraud businesses and government entities that wanted to dispose of e-waste, the DOJ said. The company, on a website, said it had "extensive knowledge" of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements.
Executive Recycling appeared as the exporter of record in more than 300 exports from the U.S. between 2005 and 2008, the DOJ said. Approximately 160 of these exported cargo containers contained CRTs, the agency said.
The defendants are scheduled to be sentenced in April. Richter's lawyer wasn't immediately available for comment.
"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," U.S. Attorney John Walsh of the district of Colorado said in a statement.
The company induced customers to enter into contracts or agreements with the defendants for electronic waste disposal, the DOJ said. Each customer paid the company to recycle their electronic waste in accordance with the representations made by the defendants.
Executive Recycling faces a US$500,000 fine per count for seven wire fraud counts, or twice the gross gain or loss. The company 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 company also faces 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 seven counts of wire fraud, each count of which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. They face one count of exportation contrary to law, which carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, and $250,000 fine or twice the gross gain or loss.
Richter also faces one count of destruction, alteration, or falsification of records in federal investigations and bankruptcy, which carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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