EPAImportU.S.Customs

Importer Pleads Guilty to Smuggling Freon

posted by Customs & International Trade Law Blog December 5, 2009 1 Comment

On November 20, 2009, in Federal Court in Miami, Florida, Mr. James Garrido and the company he controlled, Kroy Corporation, pled guilty to charges related to their illegally smuggling into the United States certain restricted ozone-depleting substances, in violation of the Clean Air Act enforced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are ozone depleting substances and include CFC-22 which is otherwise known as R-22 or popularly known by its trademark name, Freon, owned by DuPont.  CFC-22 is a widely used refrigerant for residential heat pump and air conditioning systems.

In 1988, the United States ratified the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. By ratifying the Protocol, the United States committed to a collaborative, international effort to regulate and phaseout ozone-depleting substances. The United States amended the Clean Air Act (CAA) in 1990 to include Title VI, Stratospheric Ozone Protection. The Clean Air Act established a schedule to phase out the production and importation of CFC-22.  Individual companies are licensed annually by the EPA to import specified maximum quantities of CFC-22.  By 2030, the CFC-22 will be completely phased out.

Neither Mr. Garrido nor Kroy Corporation were ever licensed by the EPA to import CFC-22.  They imported approximately 420,000 kilograms of CFC-22 valued at about $4 million over 2 years in violation of  18 U.S.C. section 545(smuggling).  They intentionally misdescribed the CFC-22 on documentation presented to U.S. Customs and Border Protection as another refrigerant, R-134A, which did not require any special license from the EPA. As stated in the press release by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida:  “Except for a small quantity of legal refrigerant strategically placed in front of the contraband, the shipment contained CFC-22 and were accompanied by false documentation.”

The case was investigated by Special Agents from the Miami offices of the EPA and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).  Sentencing will take place on February 11, 2010.  Mr. Garrido could be sentenced to 20 years imprisonment, and a criminal fine of $250,000 for each of the three counts to which he pled guilty.

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1 Comment

Greg Kritz December 8, 2009 at 8:30 am

Did this guy even know he needed a license? With 1,000’s of regulations governing trade and no clear central authortative source, seems to me this could happen to just about any importer.
Greg

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