Plastic recycling

Blocks of single-use plastic prescription bottles from the local VA sit by the dozens on Tank’s Recycling and Landfill Center in Tucson, Arizona on Saturday, March 10, 2018.

The Arizona Department of Public Safety helped arrest three suspects accused of defrauding California's recycling program out of $16.1 million by accepting monetary return for out-of-state recyclable goods, officials say.

Working with the California Department of Justice and the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery, DPS arrested 49-year-old Miguel Bustillos, from Glendale, 57-year-old Anthony Sanchez, from Tucson, and a third suspect from Los Angeles.

The three men are accused of using Bustillos' trucking company to smuggle out-of-state recyclable materials into California to cash in on the state's recycling program that pays for empty aluminum cans and plastic bottles. 

Through search warrants, the law enforcement agencies found 27,860 pounds of empty aluminum and plastic containers packed into trucks about to head to California. The recyclable containers were worth $42,000 in California's recycling program.

Bustillos and Sanchez were arrested on Nov. 7 and extradited to California for felony recycling fraud, attempted grand theft and conspiracy.

Contact reporter Danyelle Khmara at or 573-4223. On Twitter: @DanyelleKhmara


Danyelle joined the Star in 2018 and covers K-12 education. Previously, Danyelle wrote for the Tucson Weekly where she won several statewide awards including story of the year and first place investigative reporting.