Miami, with its international port, has become the centre of illegal refrigerant activity in the USA

Miami, with its international port, has become the centre of illegal refrigerant activity in the USA

USA: A Miami company has been fined $200,000 for selling and distributing air conditioning equipment containing R22 refrigerant.

The company, eAir, a Florida corporation with its headquarters in Miami, pled guilty to knowingly violating the US Clean Air Act which prohibits sales of of R22 equipment manufactured on or after January 1, 2010.

Immediately following the guilty plea, eAir was sentenced to five years of probation and ordered to pay a $200,000 criminal fine. In addition, as a special condition of probation, eAir was ordered to implement and enforce a comprehensive environmental compliance plan, to pay $75,000 community service and to reimburse US customs for costs incurred in storing the illegal merchandise.

US law prohibits the sale and distribution of refrigeration equipment pre-charged with R22 manufactured after January 1, 2010 as part of the US phase-out of the HCFC refrigerant.

According to court records, eAir is an importer and distributor of merchandise, including air conditioning equipment, condensers, and mini-split air conditioning units. US customs records revealed 34 consumption entries filed on behalf of eAir for equipment that contained R22. Aware of the ban, eAir is said to have had the equipment manufactured by an affiliated company in China between approximately February and July 2010. The company subsequently executed more than 100 separate invoices for the sale of approximately 5,033 units or components containing R22 in direct violation of the Clean Air Act.

Operation Catch-22

This case was pursued through the multi-agency initiative Operation Catch-22 which, to date, has successfully convicted nearly a dozen individuals and corporations at every level of the refrigerant gas smuggling and distribution chain.

Operation Catch-22 was responsible for the conviction of Florida-based Kroy Corporation and its president James Garrido for illegally importing 418,654kg of R22. Garrido was sentenced in 2010 to 30 months imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release. Kroy Corporation was sentenced to five years of probation. Garrido and Kroy were also fined $40,000 and ordered to forfeit $1,356,160. The offences were said to have been committed between March 2007 and April 2009 and involved 29,107 cylinders in 11 separate shipments with a combined market value of more than $3.9m.

In 2011, Operation Catch-22 was behind the conviction of Brendan Clery for illegally importing nearly 300,000kg of R22. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison, fined $10,000 and ordered to forfeit $935,240 – the proceeds of his offence.

Operation Catch-22 was at the centre of another investigation which resulted in the successful conviction of another Florida business for knowingly receiving, buying, selling and facilitating the transportation, concealment, and sale of approximately 65,592kg of R22. The Miami company, FSD Group, was sentenced to three years probation, fined $100,000 and ordered to forfeit $180,000.