Owners of the largest electronics recycling company in the Northwest were sentenced to prison Tuesday for sending flat screens that contained mercury to Hong Kong.
U.S. District Court Judge Richard A. Jones gave Jeff Zirkle of Bonney Lake and Craig Lorch of Seattle two years and four months for conspiracy to commit wire fraud.
Zirkle, 55, and Lorch, 61, pleaded guilty last year.
They’ve also agreed to pay $945,663 in restitution.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office said their company, Total Reclaim, sent more than 8 million pounds of the monitors to Hong Kong between 2008 and 2015
“Motivated by greed, these defendants betrayed every pledge they made to be good environmental stewards,” First Assistant U.S. Attorney Tessa M. Gorman said in a press release. “They protected their salaries of more than a million dollars a year, while harming the environment and risking the lives of disadvantaged Chinese workers who struggle daily just to support their families.”
Total Reclaim recycled electronics for customers such as the City of Seattle and handled electronics for the state’s E-Cycle program, which let people safely recycle electronics for free.
The company was paid millions to recycle those electronics to state Department of Ecology standards but instead sent them to Hong Kong to save money, the U.S. Attorneys Office said.
The scheme was uncovered after a non-governmental organization put trackers on flat screen monitors, recycled them and traced the machines to Hong Kong.
The group, the Basel Action Network, found workers in Hong Kong taking the screens apart without protections for the workers or the environment.
Lorch and Zirkle later tried to hide the fraud by changing shipping records, prosecutors said.
In their sentencing memorandums, Zirkle and Lorch noted their lack of criminal history and argued that they’ve contributed to the community, adding that the screens were a small part of the company’s business.
Zirkle’s sentencing memorandum said that he “appreciates that an appropriate punishment for his financial fraud should include a period of incarceration. At the same time, his offense represents a demonstrable and uncharacteristic aberration, both personally and professionally.
“It arose out of the handling of a single type of electronic component that comprised a mere 2% of Total Reclaim’s revenue and 2.8% of the total volume of material handled by Total Reclaim during the years in question.”