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'Seinfeld' Bottle Scam: Couple Busted in Maine

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By Jason Beahm on February 14, 2011 12:10 PM

In a famous Seinfeld episode, Kramer and Newman concoct an elaborate plan for how to cash in on bottle recycling fees:

NEWMAN: (peering at bottle label) What is this 'MI, ten cents'?

KRAMER: That's Michigan. In Michigan you get ten cents.

NEWMAN: Ten cents!?

KRAMER: Yeah.

NEWMAN: Wait a minute. You mean you get five cents here, and ten cents there. You could round up bottles here and run 'em out to Michigan for the difference.

KRAMER: No, it doesn't work.

NEWMAN: What d'you mean it doesn't work? You get enough bottles together...

KRAMER: Yeah, you overload your inventory and you blow your margins on gasoline. Trust me, it doesn't work.

As you can see, the Seinfeld bottle scam started off full of snags, until Newman came up with a cost cutting measure that make their plan seemingly perfect. He could use a mail truck on Mother's Day to transport the bottles.

Back in the real world, a similar plan recently went down in Maine, where three people stand accused of taking advantage of the state's bottle-refund policy. Criminal charges have been filed against Thomas and Megan Woodard for bottle-refund fraud. Police say they illegally turned in 100,000 out-of-state bottles, which totals over $10,000 in value. Peter Prybot is also acussed of turning in over $1,000 in bottles that weren't eligible to be redeemed, MSNBC reports.

"[That Seinfeld bottle scam episode] was a very funny episode ...But this is not a laughing matter," said Newell Augur, executive director of the Maine Beverage Association, MSNBC reports. Maine reportedly loses up to $10 million a year in bottle fraud.

So what's the lesson in all this? Really it comes down to the fact that fraud is still fraud, even if you're creative about it. It's hilarious when television characters like Kramer and Newman do it, but when you do it in real life, it's not so fun when the long arm of the law catches up with you.

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