Schuette: Flint Man Pleads Guilty to Returning More Than $10,000 in Non-Returnable Cans and Bottles

Contact: Andrea Bitely, Megan Hawthorne; (517) 373-8060

March 22, 2017

LANSING –Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today announced John Custer Woodfill, 70, of Flint, has pleaded guilty to returning 10,000 or more out of state non-returnable beverage containers.

Woodfill entered his guilty plea before Judge Joseph J. Farah in the Genesee County 7th Circuit Court in Flint on Monday, March 20, 2017.

“This was not a one-time nickel-and-dime case,” said Schuette. “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.  His actions also negatively affected distributors, merchants and even consumers who carry much of the burden in making the program work.”

Schuette also thanked the Department of Treasury and Michigan State Police for their assistance on this case. 

Case Background

An informant alerted the Michigan State Police to Woodfill’s operation.  They discovered that from April 2012 to April 2015 Woodfill bought uncrushed non-returnable cans in the state of Indiana as scrap, and immediately began returning them to Michigan to redeem with the help of a partner who is now deceased.  The partner relocated to Brownstown, Indiana, where he operated a beverage can “recycling” outfit, buying locally non-refundable pop and beer cans for 60-80 cents a pound. Those non-returnables were trailered back to Flint by Woodfill where he developed a system of return throughout lower Michigan in order to take advantage of our state’s refund law on deposits. 

For some of the out-of-state mismarked cans Woodfill created phony labels to give the appearance of a proper bar code for the automatic return machines. Those labels were then affixed to the containers and returned in can machines for the 10 cent deposit.

As part of his plea the van and trailer he used have been forfeited, and he owes $400,000 in restitution to the state.

He is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday, May 2, 2017.