Again and again, their investigations led them back to tiny warehouses — available for rent by the month — packed in industrial sections of South Los Angeles near the Alameda Corridor. Black-market recyclers set up plastic grinders inside, and loading docks offer easy access for vans pulling in with stolen plastic and leaving with 2,000-pound bags of ground pellets.
Not all operations are so obviously illicit, however. Sheriff's officials said they have found that many legitimate recycling operations — including those with government contracts — also process stolen plastic.
So-Cal Plastics in Anaheim was raided in June; officials said they found $450,000 worth of stolen plastic on site that day. The owner, Hector Palacios, pleaded guilty to possession of stolen property.
Juan Arellano, owner of New Horizons Plastics on Stanford Avenue in South Los Angeles, was arrested a few months earlier. In his warehouse deputies found large stacks of pallets with the logos of firms such as Trader Joe's, Domino's Pizza and Anheuser-Busch.