Enlarge / EnviroGreen’s homepage. Just because a website has pictures of a lush forest doesn’t mean it represents a company that does good things for the environment.EnviroGreen
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According to an indictment filed in Chicago federal court (PDF) late last week, 45-year-old Brian Brundage cut some serious corners while running his e-recycling businesses. He was arrested on Monday on charges of income tax evasion, mail fraud, and wire fraud.
Brundage is the former owner of Chicago-based Intercon Solutions and the current owner of EnviroGreen Processing, based in Gary, Indiana.
Both recycling companies purported to sell e-recycling services to companies and government organizations that needed to get rid of old electronics.
Brundage promised his clients that their old computers, TV monitors, and various other devices would be broken down into their component parts and recycled in keeping with federal guidelines.
Instead, feds allege that Brundage shipped some of those electronics for illegal disposal in landfills overseas.
Those electronics included Cathode Ray Tubes (CRTs) from old computer and TV monitors, which contained “hazardous amounts of lead,” as well as batteries.
The electronics that weren’t shipped to Asia were destroyed inappropriately on the premises of his businesses or stockpiled indefinitely in warehouses, which is forbidden by federal guidelines.
According to the indictment, Brundage also improperly resold many of the electronics he acquired.
Between 2009 and 2015, Brundage received shipments of calculators from an unnamed technology company in Texas with instructions to disassemble the calculators and recycle them accordingly.
But Brundage apparently resold the calculators to another company based in Tampa, Florida, which purchased and sold used electronics.
(The Chicago Tribune notes that one of Brundage’s clients was Texas Instruments, but the company didn’t respond to Ars’ request for comment on the matter.)
In exchange for the shipments of calculators, Brundage allegedly had the company in Tampa directly pay some of Brundage’s personal expenses.
Those expense include between $31,000 and $39,000 per year for a nanny and $26,000 to $42,000 per year for a housekeeper, as well as tens of thousands of dollars for jewelry expenses and payments to an Indiana-based casino.
Among the more colorful accusations in the US government’s indictment of Brundage: the businessman allegedly went to lengths to fool third-party auditors into giving his companies the certifications necessary to keep doing business as an e-recycler.
Brundage allegedly invited unknowing customers on sham tours of Intercon’s facility. Once there, he “directed Intercon’s warehouse staff to set up a staged disassembly line to make it falsely appear as though Intercon regularly processed e-waste in a manner that was consistent with its public representations.”
The Chicago Tribune published a feature on Intercon in 2007.
In it, Brundage is quoted saying, “We put old products on a disassembly line. We break each item down to raw materials and send them off to be smelted and reused.” He added, “nothing that leaves here goes to a landfill.”
The indictment against Brundage only reaches back as far as 2009, so it’s unclear whether Brundage’s statements in 2007 were actually the case or whether the Tribune had been duped.
Brundage has operated as an e-recycler since 2000 when he purchased Intercon Solutions from its previous owner.
In fact, Brundage has faced accusations of improperly disposing of e-waste materials since 2011, when he applied for an e-Stewards Certification, a certification that says the recycler is held to high standards, through the Seattle-based Basel Action Network (BAN).
BAN is an environmental organization that fights toxic and electronic dumping.
Instead of simply certifying Intercon Solutions, BAN alleged that it found evidence that Intercon was shipping CRT monitors and batteries to Hong Kong.
Brundage denied the allegations.
In response, he sued BAN for defamation.
The case wound its way through the court and was dismissed by a Chicago federal judge in October 2015 (PDF).
Last week’s indictment also accuses Brundage of shipping “large quantities of e-waste” to Hong Kong, adding that in May 2011, the Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department discovered a shipping container full of waste and sent the container back to the US.
The indictment alleges that after the May 2011 incident, Brundage destroyed business records pertaining to previous shipping agreements but continued to ship e-waste overseas, with fraudulent labels and shipping reports.
Brundage allegedly took destruction of e-waste into his own hands, too. He allegedly smashed CRT glass “in outdoor areas, without taking measures to prevent the release of potentially hazardous material into the environment.”
The US government says that Brundage earned “millions of dollars” from his illegal schemes.
The government is asking for a judgment requiring that he forfeit all property obtained “directly and indirectly” from the alleged dealings.