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Post date: January 29 2001

Rockland County Man Sentenced For Beer Bottle Redemption Scheme

Attorney General Spitzer and State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner John P. Cahill today announced the sentencing of a Rockland County man for an illegal scheme where he trucked beer bottles, which had already been redeemed in Massachusetts to New York to redeem them a second time. The defendant, William Mathis, of 1 Flower Lane in Blauvelt, was sentenced by Rockland County Superior Court Justice J. William Kelly to six months in jail and five years probation after pleading guilty to a charge of fourth degree grand larceny.

Investigators from Spitzer’s office and the DEC found that Mathis illegally took millions of previously redeemed beer bottles from Tomra of Massachusetts, L.L.C., a company that collects redeemables for dealers and distributors. Mathis hired drivers to bring tractor trailer loads of the bottles from Tomra to an empty lot in the Bronx where they were off-loaded to smaller trucks, taken to various distributors and redeemed. These bottles were ultimately presented for redemption at Oak Beverage, a large beer distributor located in Rockland County.

After Oak complained to the DEC about the scheme, DEC investigators gathered evidence of the fraud by following trucks from Massachusetts to New York. DEC investigators also placed radio tracking devices in cases of empty bottles. The bottles were then redeemed at retail outlets in Massachusetts that were serviced by Tomra and electronically tracked back to New York. Using these methods, investigators confirmed that the bottles diverted from Tomra and brought into New York state by Mathis had already been redeemed in Massachusetts.

"This defendant tried unsuccessfully to exploit the state’s bottle redemption laws for his own benefit," Spitzer said. "We will continue to work with the DEC to uphold the bottle bill law and prosecute those who wrongly try to profit from the law that was intended to encourage recycling and to protect the state’s environment."

"Ths case sends a strong signal to those who would attempt to exploit New York’s environmental laws for their own benefit that this type of behavior will not be tolerated," DEC Commissioner Cahill said. "I commend the Environmental Conservation Officers and investigators who aggressively pursued this case and helped bring this defendant to justice. We will continue to work to promote responsible environmental stewardship and ensure the protection of New York’s natrual resources and environment."

The case was handled by Assistant Attorney General Hugh L. McLean, under the supervision of Criminal Prosecution Bureau Chief Janet Cohn.