Press Coverage on Fake Recycling in Pittsburgh
Humane groups think they’ve been duped
Charities say recycling firm put hold on $10,000 checks
By Karamagi Rujumba, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Two charity organizations that partnered with an Oklahoma electronics recycling company earlier this year say they fear they might be the victims of a scam.
The Washington Area Humane Society and the Humane Society of Westmoreland County each recently received a $10,000 check from EarthEcycle — payment for the thousands of pounds of electronics the company collected in a recycling program with both charity organizations.
The Tulsa-based EarthEcycle, which is owned and operated by Jeff Nixon, 44, a former Allegheny County employee, agreed to pay each of the charities $10,000 for every 100,000 pounds of old electronics they collected.
However, officials at both animal shelters say they haven’t cashed their proceeds because EarthEcycle placed an indefinite hold the checks.
“I haven’t been able to get a hold of Mr. Nixon since our [recycling program ended],” said Alice Wancowicz, volunteer coordinator for the Washington animal shelter.
Kathy Burkley, executive director of the Humane Society of Westmoreland County, said she also received a similar check from Mr. Nixon two weeks ago, “after prodding him for a while.”
When reached yesterday, Mr. Nixon said both charities should be able to cash the checks by Friday. He said he is still waiting to be paid by his vendors.
“I fully intend to have everybody paid in full,” said Mr. Nixon, whose company has been the target of an investigation by an environmental watchdog group that claims he is involved in the shipping and dumping of hazardous waste around the world.
The company still owes the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society some $150,000 for an electronics collection campaign the animal shelter held this spring.
Yesterday, Mr. Nixon said he expects to fulfill his commitment to the Humane Society starting next week when he will make between $10,000 and $20,000 payments to the animal shelter every day until the outstanding balance is paid off.
But both Ms. Burkley and Ms. Wancowicz said they are quickly losing hope in recovering their proceeds.
“We probably will have to sue him if he doesn’t make his payment to us,” said Ms. Burkley, adding that she has already given a copy of the check she received from EarthEcycle to Greensburg police.
Furthermore, both Ms. Burkley and Ms. Wancowicz said they have been telling animal shelters in Oklahoma, New Jersey, Ohio, West Virginia, and other places not to do business with Mr. Nixon and EarthEcycle.
That is why the Berkeley County Humane Society in West Virginia has canceled a free electronics recycling program it had planned for June in a partnership with EarthEcycle, said Shari Persad, executive director of the animal shelter.
“After all the things we have heard about the company in the Pittsburgh area, we felt it was best to go ahead and cancel our event,” Ms. Persad said. “We just don’t feel this is a company we want to be associated with our shelter.”
Robert Levin, the owner of Levin Furniture in Monroeville, feels the same way. His company donated its old showroom on William Penn Highway to be used as a storage facility by the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society during its recycling program.
“To us, it seemed like a wonderful opportunity to help a respectable organization like the Humane Society to raise money,” said Mr. Levin. He added that his company had no dealings with EarthEcycle, which collected and stored more than 1 million pounds of old electronics in his 26,000-square-foot building.
And after the Seattle-based environmental watchdog Basel Action Network released a report claiming that EarthEcycle exports hazardous waste, Mr. Levin said he asked EarthEcycle to remove what is left of its electronics from his facility as soon as possible.
“If the allegations are true, I find it outrageous, absolutely terrible, that EarthEcycle was doing this,” said Mr. Levin, who considers himself a strong environmental advocate.
Oklahoma records show that Mr. Nixon, who was employed by Allegheny County in the administrative services division from 1998 to 2002, established his recycling business under the banner EarthEcycle in January 2008.
Before that, however, court records in Allegheny County show Mr. Nixon left behind a checkered life when he moved from Pennsylvania to Oklahoma in 2003.
Mr. Nixon, who filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of the Western District of Pennsylvania in 2000, pleaded guilty to a number of charges in the Allegheny County Common Pleas Court in 2001.
The charges include two counts of simple assault, making terroristic threats, harassment and possession of an instrument of crime. He served one year of probation for each charge. Court records show charges of disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing were withdrawn.