A Flint man has been sentenced to three years of probation and must pay back $400,000 for running an interstate, "Seinfeld"-esque pop can scam.
John Woodfill, 70, was also ordered to surrender $4,000 worth of stock he owned — in Pepsi Co.
Woodfill returned more than 10,000 out-of-state, non-returnable cans and bottles in Michigan over a three-year period, according to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette. Authorities said he bought uncrushed, non-returnable cans in Indiana as scrap and hauled them to Michigan.
This man’s actions had negative consequences beyond just stealing from Michigan’s bottle return program,” Schuette said in a written statement. “His actions also negatively impacted distributors, merchants and even consumers who carry much of the burden in making the program work.
"Hopefully today’s sentence will serve as a reminder to others who may think this is a profitable criminal endeavor. It’s not, and you will see consequences.”
Michigan State Police detectives learned about the scheme through an informant.
A now-deceased partner of Woodfill's operated a beverage can “recycling” outfit in Brownstown, Ind., buying locally non-refundable pop and beer cans for 60 to 80 cents a pound, authorities said. Woodfill used a trailer to take the non-Michigan cans and bottles to Flint, where he developed a system of return throughout lower Michigan.
Authorities said Woodfill even created phony labels for some out-of-state, mismarked cans to give the appearance of a proper bar code for automatic return machines. The labels were affixed to the containers and returned in can machines for the 10-cent deposit.
The scam ran from April 2012 to April 2015.
Genesee Circuit Judge Joseph Farah sentenced Woodfill today to 36 months' probation and nine months in jail, with the jail sentence held in abeyance until he completes probation.
He was also ordered to complete 450 hours of community service and pay $400,000 in restitution to the state. As part of his plea, Woodfill forfeited his van and trailer.
Contact Ann Zaniewski: 313-222-6594 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @AnnZaniewski.
Detroit Free Press