The arrests of three Peninsula men who are due to be arraigned next week have cast light on a little-known fraud problem in the e-waste recycling industry.
Since 2005, consumers have paid a fee of $6 to $25 when they buy a device covered under the state’s e-waste recycling laws, including CRT televisions and computer monitors and devices with LCD screens, such as laptops.
In turn, collectors pick up the old devices and bring them to recyclers — there are about 60 different ones statewide — who break down the electronic waste and submit claims to the state agency CalRecycle.
In the case of the Peninsula men — John Chen, 38, and Joseph Chen, 69, both of Hillsborough, and Jason Huang, 65, of Foster City — officials allege their company, Tung Tai Group, which has a warehouse in San Jose and an office address in Burlingame, submitted reimbursement claims for
2 million pounds of materials that were never recycled, attempting to collect $1 million that the state never paid.
The three were charged in late August. Each posted $1 million bail and an arraignment is set for Nov. 3. A call to the company was referred to John Chen, who could not be reached for comment.
E-waste recyclers statewide have submitted around $393 million in claims for reimbursement since the program started in 2005, but more than $20 million in claims were rejected because of questionable documentation, according to officials from the California Department of Toxic Substances Control.
The percentage of claims adjusted because of irregularities or possible fraud has edged up to roughly 8 to
12 percent in recent years, which “may be indicative of aspects of the industry looking to take advantage of the system,” said Jeff Hunts, manager of CalRecycle’s e-waste program.
Hunts urged consumers to ensure whoever they are turning over e-waste over to is complaint with state laws by looking up authorized collectors on CalRecycle’s website.