Owner of Prominent Chicago Electronics Recycler "Intercon Solutions" Arrested for Fraud by Federal Agents
First Caught Exporting e-Waste to Asia by Environmental Group in 2011
Seattle, WA, USA. December 20, 2016. More than five years since first being exposed by the environmental watchdog organization, Basel Action Network (BAN), Intercon Solutions CEO Brian Brundage was arrested and indicted yesterday for 4 counts of tax evasion and 6 counts of fraud. The government is seeking forfeiture of 10 million dollars and each count of income tax evasion is punishable by up to five years in prison. The wire fraud and mail fraud counts each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years.
"Intercon Solutions was always a con and never a solution," said BAN Director Jim Puckett. "But they fooled a lot of people and got very rich doing it. After we tracked their containers to China, we found out from former employees that they never actually did any electronics recycling at all but just packed and shipped offshore or to local landfills -- a complete fraud."
BAN, which takes its name from the Basel Convention -- a UN treaty that controls and prohibits the export of hazardous electronic wastes from rich to poorer countries-- has been a relentless watchdog on the issue for the last decade, working to halt the massive tide of toxic e-wastes to that flow each day to Asia by so-called "recyclers" in the United States. In 2009 they created the e-Stewards® Certification to offer an alternative to the weaker "R2" Certification created by a US EPA led negotiation, which continues to allow the export of toxic e-wastes to developing countries.
In 2011, Intercon Solutions applied to become e-Stewards Certified. But in that same year, when BAN photographers discovered and confirmed that containers of electronic waste parked in their yard want to China that same year, they announced that Intercon would not be allowed into the e-Stewards program for a period of at least two years. Intercon's existing R2 Certification, however, was reinstated after a few months of the news.
In 2012, after Intercon had lost significant business due to their customers believing BAN's evidence, Intercon sued BAN for defamation. As quoted in the Chicago Heights Patch on September 20 of 2012, Brundage said, "My goal, at this point is to put them (BAN) out of business."
Meanwhile, BAN retained pro-bono legal assistance and gave all of their research and evidence regarding the exports and fraud to Federal and State government officials. The lawsuit against BAN was dismissed in 2015. Yesterday's action by the Federal government is the latest chapter in the continuing saga which BAN hopes will end in a successful prosecution.
However, BAN warns that Brundage is far from alone in his shameful practices. A recent study using GPS tracking devices revealed that 40% of the recyclers where tracker enabled devices were delivered in e-waste equipment, simply exported the equipment (primarily to China) rather than properly recycling it in the US.
The government is limited to charging Intercon with fraud and tax evasion as US environmental laws do not prohibit global dumping.
"It is gratifying to see the wheels of justice turn at long last, but it must be understood that the true crime of Intercon was not a financial one," said Puckett. "The real harm perpetrated by Brian Brundage and so many others operating in the same way today is the assault on human health and the environment of poorer communities in Asia where our toxic e-waste ends up."
Since 2002, BAN exposed the highly dangerous and polluting offshore electronic waste operations operated by informal recyclers in countries like China and Nigeria that have poisoned thousands of workers and the immediate environs. BAN has worked with many business leaders to prohibit US exports; and, until that happens, they have created the e-Stewards Certification program for those customers that wish to find recyclers that refuse to participate in global toxic waste trade to developing countries.
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For more information about the Intercon Solutions Case: http://wiki.ban.org/Intercon_Solutions
For more information contact:
Jim Puckett, Executive Director, Basel Action Network
Phone: +1 206-652-5555
About Basel Action Network
Founded in 1997, the Basel Action Network is a 501(c)3 charitable organization of the United States, based in Seattle, WA. BAN is the world's only organization focused on confronting the global environmental justice and economic inefficiency of toxic trade and its devastating impacts. Today, BAN serves as the information clearinghouse on the subject of waste trade for journalists, academics, and the general public. Through its investigations, BAN uncovered the tragedy of hazardous electronic waste dumping in developing countries. For more information, see www.BAN.org or blog.BAN.org.