10-year Waste Management scam busted

December 29, 2008 11:39:23 AM PST
San Jose's Police Chief says a local landfill has been taking in more than garbage.

Investigators say they uncovered a bribery scheme that may have cost taxpayers millions of dollars in lost fees.

Four of the six men arrested made their first court appearance Wednesday.

Investigators say the main victim was Waste Management, a company that lost more than $13 million in revenue over the last 2.5.

Six men have been arrested.

"While you hear the details about this crime it will become obvious that this case is indeed about unbridled greed," said San Jose Police Chief Robert Davis, during a press conference Wednesday.

The ten-month investigation by the San Jose Police Department revealed a bribery scheme that officers say reached most of the workers at the Kirby Canyon Landfill in South San Jose.

Investigators say 52-year old James Lucero, owner and operator of a trucking brokerage called Resource Development Services, bribed Waste Management workers to allow his trucks to pay less in fees, sometimes even charging no fees to dump their loads.

"Some of the scale house operators were generating an income between $2000 to $3,000 cash per week in bribe money," said Sgt. Dean Ackermann.

Six people were arrested including the landfill's general manager and operations manager. Four of the men appeared in Santa Clara County Superior Court Wednesday afternoon.

Five other Kirby Canyon Landfill employees were fired by Waste Management but were not arrested.

"I won't go into more detail about why other people may not be charged at this time because we're still in the process of doing the criminal investigation. It doesn't mean that there wouldn't be more," said Chief Davis.

Investigators believe this bribery scheme has been working for more than 10 years. A city worker alerted investigators 2.5 years ago. Waste Management was notified and they hired a forensic investigator to look at the landfill's books.

They determined the company lost more than $13 million of revenue since January 1, 2006.

Investigators say San Jose taxpayers were also victims.

"The city collects $15 out of the $40 per ton of material disposed of. So there's potentially the loss of thousands and maybe millions of dollars in lost revenue," said John Stufflebean the Director of the Environmental Services Department.

The owner of RDS, James Lucero, faces eight felony charges including commercial bribery and conspiracy to commit embezzlement, plus an enhancement aimed at white-collar crime. The other five defendants are charged with three felonies including accepting a bribe.

Bail was set at $5 million each, but Lucero has special restrictions because investigators have not found all the money lost to the bribery scheme.

"There is an order in place that will require Mr. Lucero to prove that any money he may offer for bail is not part of the ill-gotten gains of the crime," said Deputy District Attorney Dale Lohman.

Jennifer Andrews a Waste Management employee, said Wednesday, "We are working with the appropriate authorities to settle on, and pay, the fees and taxes owed on these waste loads."

The Kirby Canyon Landfill now also has a new management team.


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