Bottle return scammers costing Michigan millions

9:45 PM, Feb 25, 2013   |    comments
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NEW BUFFALO, Mich. (WZZM) - 13 On Your Side is taking a closer look at a problem along the Michigan-Indiana border, one that's costing Michigan millions of dollars. State leaders claim people are constantly collecting cans and bottles from Wisconsin to Ohio, crossing over the Michigan border, and illegally cashing them in at local stores.

About five miles north of the Indiana state line, New Buffalo Pharmacy is an easy target, caught in the middle of the illegal trade.

"I'm sure it goes on everyday," says Tim Krueger, head of stock for New Buffalo Pharmacy.

Krueger says people are buying cans in Indiana and selling in Michigan to make a profit.

"You can see on their license plate they're from Indiana," says Krueger.

Krueger says sometimes he catches them, sometimes he doesn't.

"If they bring it back in a bag or something, we have no way of telling it's from Indiana," says Krueger.

However, new legislation would make it illegal to even attempt to sell cans across state lines, whether a sale is completed or not. It would add penalties including $1,000 fines and even three months in jail.

For every can that's returned, Michigan pays 10 cents, which is the highest rate in the country. The pharmacy has set a $6 limit, but even that doesn't always work.

"Somebody will come in and get their $6 and somebody else will come in and get their $6 and you watch them and it's the same family," says Krueger.

Eventually, either the distributor or the state will pay the store back, but that means more money is lost all the time.

There are machines available that detect where a can or bottle came from. However, they're usually at the larger chain stores and smaller store owners often say they can't afford them.

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