DENVER (CBS4) – A guilty verdict for the CEO and another executive of a recycling company in Englewood after an investigation by “60 Minutes” uncovered junked electronics found in a wasteland in China.
Executive Recycling Inc. owner and CEO Brandon Richter of Highlands Ranch and Vice President of Operations Tor Olson of Parker were convicted in federal court of multiple counts of mail and wire fraud, environmental crimes, smuggling and obstruction.
Colorado residents gave the electronic items to Executive Recycling thinking they would be safely recycled.
The government claimed shipping invoices and the “60 Minutes” investigative report clearly show the violations, while the defense said Executive Recycling did what it set out to do — dispose of electronic waste in a responsible way in the U.S.
The jury reached their verdict on Friday after an 11-day trial in Denver. Richter, 38, and Olson, 37, are scheduled to be sentenced in April 2013.
A 2008 “60 Minutes” edition followed a shipping container full of electronic waste from Englewood to Hong Kong. The dangerous hazardous waste included old computer monitors containing CRTs, or cathode ray tubes, made of toxic lead.
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 touted itself as a green company that would responsibly recycle, or re-purpose old computers, cellphones and other electronic components within the U.S.
The company collected electronic waste from private households, businesses, and government entities.
Executive Recycling 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.
During the trial the government claimed that Executive Recycling “lied to customers” and “sold the waste overseas for profit.”
The defense said Executive Recycling provided its customers with the service they were promised and never sent waste, like non-working monitors, overseas.
The defendants made $1.8 million in illegal activity and shipped more than 100,000 CRTs to foreign countries, including China.
During the trial, the government called witnesses from The Children’s Hospital, Jefferson County Schools and El Paso County; all entities that used the services Executive Recycling offered.
“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.