70-year-old John Custer Woodfill had devised a plan: after collecting cans he would travel from Indiana to Michigan in order to recycle the metal for a profit. TV addicts will remember this kind of scheme from sitcom classic Seinfeld, but in reality, this ploy landed the culprit in a lot of trouble.
Woodfill now owes $400,000 in restitution to the state, according to CBS News. The can scam had been going on for three years before police were tipped off.
Woodfill would purchase non-returnable uncrushed cans as scrap in Indiana and drive them to Michigan where he would redeem the metal for money with the help of a now-deceased partner. Woodfill had worked out the printing of a series of illegitimate barcodes to keep police off his tail, as well. Since the cans are not meant to be deposited at all, forging the labels and collecting a profit from the material is illegal.
“This was not a one-time nickel-and-dime case,” said Attorney General Bill Schuette in a statement. “This man orchestrated bogus refunds for tens of thousands of non-returnable beverage containers. In effect he stole from Michigan’s bottle return program that has long served to protect and promote a healthy environment.”
The van Woodfill used for the can-heists is now being confiscated. He will be officially sentenced on May 2nd.