According to court records from the Federal District Court in San Diego, Mr. Robert Erie, CEO of E-World Recyclers, LLC of Vista, CA was criminally indicted in December of 2014 by a Grand Jury for conspiracy, trafficking in counterfeit goods, falsifying records, and lying to the government. He was subsequently arrested, released on bail, and pled guilty to the charges. The case is still pending a final judgement.
The government indictment charges that in late 2009 and extending into 2010, E-World was sub-contracted by Cycle Chem, Inc. to destroy counterfeit knock-off, high-end goods seized by the Customs and Border Protection Agency of the Department of Homeland Security. This sub-contract involved approximately 38 shipments of 1,888 pallets of designer watches, pens, and headphones. According to the government, instead of destroying these materials at the E-World recycling facility in Vista, California, Erie and a colleague hid the fake goods at a neighbor’s house and in a private storage unit. Erie then tried to sell the counterfeit goods to others as authentic branded products. The indictment also claims that Mr. Erie falsified reports to the government asserting that the material had been destroyed and then later created false documents implicating others as being the culpable parties once the scheme was discovered.
E-World Recyclers is one of the largest electronics recyclers in California, boasting an impressive collection of high-profile customers on its website including: Sony, Samsung, NEC, ViewSonic, Waste Management, FedEx Kinko’s, and Hitachi (1). In 2013, their E-World Online division partnered with Costco to begin managing the reuse and recycling of the retailer’s returned merchandise (2).
“The electronics recycling industry continues to be engulfed in scandal after scandal, which has involved unethical exportation, dumping, or abandonment of hazardous materials and exposure of private data,” said Jim Puckett, executive director of the toxic waste trade watchdog organization, Basel Action Network (BAN). “And now we see yet another example of corporate malfeasance by one of the recycling industry’s leading actors and this time we are talking about blatant criminal fraud. I think the lesson here is to use only electronics recyclers employing the most accountable certification programs and to back it up with your own due diligence.”
The knock-off watches bore brands such as Chanel, Couch, Cartier, and Rolex. According to the indictment, commencing on January 12, 2010 Mr. Erie shipped 4 different shipments of fake watches to individuals listed as “H. S.” and “D. D.” in “Ohio“. Previous court records show that Mr. Erie is already on a 5-year probation for another federal case sentence in 2013 for being a felon found in illegal possession of firearms. The counterfeit trafficking charges brought against Erie are considered a felony under Title 18, United States Code, Section 2320 which, by itself, carries a maximum 10 years of prison time and/or a $2 million fine.
Due to numerous examples of irresponsible electronics recycling, BAN, in 2010, created the e-Stewards® Certification program for ethical electronics recyclers that refuse to export hazardous e-waste to developing countries, ensure destruction of private data to protect customer information and privacy, and ensure that their customers are not defrauded. The e-Stewards program has a policy that removes criminal violators from the program and has also instituted unannounced spot checks to ensure high rates of accountability. E-World Recyclers have never been e-Stewards certified.
Mr. Erie is expected to next appear in court on June 29th at a hearing to set a possible trial date.