Seinfeldian bottle return caper no laughing matter

About a year ago, The Michigan Lawyer told you about an alleged beverage container-deposit fraud scheme involving out-of-state empties being cashed in under Michigan’s 10-cent deposit law. Over $1.5 million, and millions and millions of cans were involved.

Life was imitating the madcap art of a Seinfeld episode in which Kramer and Newman had the same idea, on a not-quite-so-grand scheme, but they were ultimately thwarted by a golf club once owned by President John F. Kennedy. Huh? Click here for a recap.

In real life, law enforcement officials charge that smuggling rings were collecting and crushing cans in Ohio, where there is no deposit law, and selling the resulting chunks to Michigan store owners who then redeemed them for cash. The Associated Press reports that 12 individuals were charged and the trial starts today.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers are considering measures that would make it a lot tougher to redeem non-deposit cans and bottles. From the Associated Press:

“Under bipartisan bills pending in the Legislature, each can and bottle sold in the state would have to be marked with a special dot, symbol or other code. Reverse vending machines would then be retrofitted to scan and recognize the dot to ensure that non-Michigan containers get no refund.

“Stores also could limit customers to $5 a day in bottle refunds or $25 per day if the retailer has return machines. Fines and jail time would increase.”

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