Three people charged with bilking the state's recycling program out of $7 million by importing cans from Arizona pleaded not guilty Wednesday.
Howard Leveson, 68, the owner of Perris Valley Recycling, and two of his employees entered their pleas to a total of 18 counts including recycling fraud, grand theft and conspiracy, the Riverside Press-Enterprise said.
Attorney General Jerry Brown said the center used containers not eligible for state funds.
"These people pretended to be recycling California aluminum cans when they were really importing tons of cans from Arizona," Brown said in a statement issued Wednesday. "They brazenly defrauded the state's successful recycling program."
The center raised suspicion because it was collecting about 10,000 pounds of cans per day starting in early 2009 while similar facilities average only about 500, and special agents from the Attorney General's office began an investigation.
Officials estimate the center brought in 4.4 million pounds in cans from Arizona, worth about $7 million in state funds.