Former CEO of recycling firm sentenced to second prison term for tax fraud


Date: January 18, 2022


SEATTLE — The former owner and co-CEO of an electronics recycling firm was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to 6 months in prison for tax fraud, announced U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. Jeffrey Zirkle of Gig Harbor, Washington, was the owner and co-CEO of Total Reclaim, the Northwest's largest recycler of electronic waste. In 2019, Zirkle was sentenced to 28 months in prison for defrauding clients by secretly exporting electronic waste to Hong Kong, despite presenting his business as an environmentally-friendly recycling service. Today's second criminal case stems from Zirkle using company funds to pay for his personal expenses and failing to report the transactions on his income tax returns.

At today's sentencing hearing U.S. District Judge James L. Robart said, "He's been defrauding the company and defrauding the government for years…. He has no respect for the law whatsoever." Judge Robart ordered Zirkle to pay $125,549 in restitution to the government.

"Those who fail to pay their taxes are not just cheating the government, they are also stealing from taxpayers who are following the rules. But despite earning nearly $1 million a year in salary, Mr. Zirkle refused to pay his fair share," said U.S. Attorney Nick Brown. "At the same time that he was misleading customers about his company's business practices, he was also lying to the IRS by mischaracterizing his personal expenses as business expenses. No one is above the law."

According to records filed in the case, following the prosecution of Zirkle and his partner for fraud, a new CEO took over Total Reclaim. That executive discovered Zirkle had embezzled from the company by charging hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal expenses on company credit cards. An investigation by the FBI and IRS:CI determined that as much as $480,000 were for personal items and that Zirkle never reported those benefits on his income tax returns. Many of the charges involved the purchase of luxury goods: more than $4,000 at Louie Vuitton Las Vegas, $4,000 as a down payment on a motocross bike, and over $15,000 for the partial payment of a vintage 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle. Zirkle also spent over $17,000 in corporate funds on a single day to purchase home appliances, and over $15,000 on a home irrigation system. Even after his sentencing on the fraud charges in April 2019, Zirkle continued to use the corporate credit card for his own expenses charging over $5,000 for septic work on his home.

In October 2021, Zirkle pleaded guilty to filing false tax returns from 2008 to 2017. Zirkle negotiated a settlement with Total Reclaim regarding the expenses. Zirkle was ordered to pay $125,549 in restitution for the tax loss.

"Mr. Zirkle not only defrauded the Government and endangered the environment, Mr. Zirkle also had the audacity to further line his pockets by stealing from his own company," said Special Agent in Charge Bret Kressin, IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS:CI), Seattle Field Office. "IRS:CI is committed to investigating financial and tax crimes, and we will not let these crimes go unnoticed. Today's sentence is proof of this commitment, and the sentence represents further justice for Mr. Zirkle's schemes."

In the earlier criminal case, an EPA investigation concluded that Total Reclaim had secretly exported over eight million pounds of monitors containing toxic materials such as mercury. The investigation revealed that Zirkle and his co-defendant had concealed this practice by submitting fraudulent documents to auditors and customers, and had falsified more documents when the practice was discovered.

Due to concern about the pandemic, Judge Robart ordered Zirkle to begin serving his sentence in early August. Over the objections of the prosecutor, Zirkle asked for the delay in serving his time, so he could attend two family weddings. Zirkle will be on 18 months of supervised release for the tax crimes following his prison term.

The tax case was investigated by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS:CI) and FBI.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Seth Wilkinson.