USA: The owner of a California car parts business has been charged with illegally importing refrigerant R22 in cylinders marked as R134a.

Mahmoud Alkabbani, 63, the owner of USA Car Parts in Garden Grove was arrested on June 16 at Los Angeles International Airport after he returned to the United States from a trip abroad.

The import and sale of ozone-depleting R22 is strictly controlled in the USA under the Clean Air Act. Only parties with unexpended consumption allowances are allowed to import the chemical.

According to the indictment, Alkabbani is accused of entering into an agreement with a Chinese company to purchase R22, which was packaged in cylinders bearing counterfeit “Glacier” trademarks. The 2013 contract with the Chinese company listed the product as R134a, but a second, secret agreement called for the Chinese company to actually sell R22 to Alkabbani. 

The indictment charges Alkabbani with conspiracy, one count of entry of goods by means of false statement, five counts of passing false and fraudulent papers through a customhouse, one count of smuggling and one count of violating the Clean Air Act by improperly selling R22 to an undercover agent.

Alkabbani has pleaded not guilty to the nine-count indictment and was released on a $30,000 bond. A trial date has been set for August 8.

If convicted of the nine counts in the indictment, Alkabbani would face a statutory maximum sentence of 132 years in federal prison.