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Colorado recycler indicted for illegal e-waste exports

Executive Recycling execs indicted; environmental crimes alleged

Denver Business Journal

Date: Friday, September 16, 2011, by Greg Avery

Examples of electronic waste.A federal grand jury in Denver has indicted two executives from Executive Recycling, a metro-area electronics recycling company, after a three-year investigation into allegations they dumped hazardous computer waste overseas instead of reusing and reselling it domestically.

Executive Recycling, based in Englewood, was profiled in a 60 Minutes expose in 2008 about the environmental and human toll of disposing of used computers and electronics, or ewaste, in China and other countries.

Investigators from the Environmental Protection Agency raided the business in early 2009 and seized records under a search warrant.

The agency and other investigators have declined to discuss the case publicly since then.

The grand jury indicted Executive Recycling CEO and own Brandon Richter, 36, of Highlands Ranch, and former company vice president Tor Olson, 36, of Parker, on charges of wire and mail fraud as well as environmental crimes.

The indictment, released Friday alleges, the two exported hazardous ewaste — mostly monitors with cathode-ray tubes (or CRT) — without a proper EPA license, and then they altered, destroyed or falsified records about the shipments.

Interviewed by the DBJ as the investigation started in 2008, CEO Brandon Richter claimed ignorance about the overseas shipments of ewaste — first uncovered by Seattle-based environmental group Basel Action Network — and blamed what 60 Minutes reported on a Canadian company it contracted.

“We thought it was going to Canada or just to be sold here in the United States,” said Richter.

The EPA investigation, the indictment said, connected Executive Recycling to more than 300 exports of ewaste between 2005 and 2008, including 160 exports that shipped more than 100,000 CRT monitors.

Executive Recycling told clients — including the governments of Boulder, Broomfield, El Paso County and the Jefferson County and Cherry Creek school district; and The Children’s Hospital, Centura Health Hospital, the Denver Newspaper Agency, and ADT Security — that all the electronics they collected from them would be reused or disposed of in accordance with all environmental regulations.

Instead, the indictment said, Richter and Olson made more than $1.8 million selling the ewaste to companies that shipped them abroad, presumably so the ewaste would be dismantled to recover tiny amounts of precious metals they contain.

The electronics, especially CRT monitors, contain lead and other hazardous materials, and the dismantling of ewaste can poison the area where it’s done, and be harmful to the people involved.

To read the entire release issued by the U.S. Attorney’s office, click here.

To see a copy of the Executive Recycling Indictment, click here.