FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEENRD
MONDAY, JULY 30, 2001(202) 514-2007
WWW.USDOJ.GOVTDD (202) 514-1888
5 CHARGED IN MULTI-MILLION DOLLAR SCHEME TO ILLEGALLY IMPORT
OZONE-DEPLETING SUBSTANCES INTO THE U.S.
WASHINGTON, D.C. - A federal grand jury in New Haven, Conn. has returned an indictment charging five men for allegedly engaging in a scheme to trade in chemicals that deplete the Earth's ozone layer and that are strictly regulated in the United States.
The U.S. District Court in New Haven today unsealed the indictment charging Barry Himes of Lyme, Connecticut; John Mucha of Guilford, Connecticut; Richard Pelletier of Bolton, Connecticut.; Douglas Castle of Huntington, New York; and Alfredo Vega of Hato Rey, Puerto Rico. Himes, Mucha and Castle were arraigned today. Pelletier was arraigned last week.
The men are charged with several felonies related to the importation and sale of hundreds of tons of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from 1995 to 1998, including conspiracy to make false statements to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Customs Service; conspiracy to defraud the IRS; filing false tax returns; money laundering; and conspiracy to obstruct a federal grand jury. According to the indictment, the defendants developed a complicated importation and sale scheme with the purpose of bringing CFCs into the United States from China, Russia and Canada, and concealing the sales proceeds.
CFCs are subject to strict regulation under the Clean Air Act, because their airborne release damages the Earth's ozone layer. The United States has international treaty obligations under the Montreal Protocol to reduce the production and consumption of ozone depleting chemicals, and the importation of CFCs into the United States is generally limited to already-used CFCs. In addition, CFCs are subject to a substantial excise tax upon sale within the United States.
The indictment alleges that Himes, Mucha, Pelletier and Vega arranged to import CFCs into the United States in the name of shell corporations, in order to impede the IRS in its effort to collect more than $20 million in excise taxes. Himes, Mucha, Pelletier and Castle concealed millions of dollars in profits from the sale of CFCs, according to the indictment. Himes, Mucha and Pelletier are alleged to have concealed about $4.5 million of income received, principally through the diversion of CFC sales proceeds to offshore accounts and shell entities. In turn, dozens of wire transfers and checks were made payable to contractors building a multi-million home for Himes, to a boat dealer for Himes's purchase of a 45-foot cruiser, to a jeweler for a diamond ring and other diamond jewelry for Himes, and to car dealerships for the purchase of vehicles for Himes, Mucha and Pelletier.
Four other individuals in connection with this investigation already have pled guilty to federal charges. Pavel Perlov of Chelsea, Massachusetts pled guilty in February 2001 to conspiracy to obstruct a grand jury investigation. In April 2001, Rudi Endres of Berwyn, Pennsylvania pled guilty to income tax evasion and Juan Carlos Gorbea of San Juan, Puerto Rico pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud the IRS. In May 2001, Alicia Keigwin of Berwyn, Pennsylvania admitted to a misdemeanor tax charge.
Those defendants charged with the false statements conspiracy, the conspiracy to defraud the IRS, the interstate wire fraud, or the conspiracy to obstruct a federal grand jury investigation each face up to five years' imprisonment and a $250,000 fine for each count, if convicted. If Himes, Mucha and Pelletier are convicted on the individual false tax return counts in which they are charged, each face up to three years' imprisonment and $100,000 in fines for each count. If convicted on the money laundering charges, Himes Mucha and Pelletier each face up to twenty years' imprisonment and a $500,000 fine or twice the value of the proceeds they laundered. Himes and Pelletier are charged with fifteen money laundering transactions involving nearly $2 million. Mucha is charged with nine money laundering transactions involving more than $1.8 million.
The case is being investigated by the U.S. EPA, the IRS and the U.S. Customs Service. The case is being prosecuted by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Connecticut and the Environmental Crimes Section of the Justice Department.
Today's indictment is part of an ongoing, nationwide initiative by the Justice Department, the EPA., the U.S. Customs Service, and the IRS to enforce federal laws and regulations that restrict the use of substances that destroy the Earth's ozone layer. Other investigations that have been completed recently include:
Florida - On May 25, 2001, Aurelio and Joseph Vigna, were sentenced in Miami to serve 24 and 18 months imprisonment, respectively, and to pay $750,000 in excise taxes after they pled guilty to conspiracy to evade federal excise taxes; conspiracy to violate the Clean Air Act; illegal distribution of CFC-12 in violation of the Clean Air Act; and the evasion of excise taxes from 1992 through 1994. The defendants distributed the chemical dichlorodifluoromethane (known as "CFC-12") within the United States in violation of EPA regulations. As part of the scheme, they filed false documents with the U.S. Customs Service, the EPA and the IRS.
Kentucky - On March 12, 2001, the Kentucky Commonwealth Attorney's Office filed a 167-count indictment against 16 individuals, alleging the existence of a multi-state operation involving the theft and sale of CFC-12. The refrigerants were allegedly stolen from the Louisville Packaging Co. and transported to a farm in Henry County, Kentucky, where they were repackaged and sold to distributors who, in turn, sold them to customers in several states. Approximately ten tons of the product, with an estimated value of $1 million, was seized following an investigation of the Jefferson County Police Department, EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Kentucky Vehicle Enforcement program with the assistance of EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center. The men charged face a possible sentence of between 10 and 20 years on state charges of criminal syndication.
California - On December 20, 2000, in the Northern District of California, All Discount Laboratory Supply ("ADLS"), a chemical supply company located in Hayward, California, two of its owners (Mark Alexander Kesel and Vladimir Kotlyarenko), two of its employees (Diane Marie Engle and William Albert Gifford), and 12 other defendants were charged in a four count indictment arising out of their sale and distribution of trichlorotrifluoroethane (known as "CFC-113") to methamphetamine-manufacturing organizations in California. The indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to manufacture and to aid and abet the manufacture of methamphetamine, distribution and possession of chemicals, equipment and materials used to manufacture methamphetamine, and distribution of laboratory supplies to persons who use or attempt to use them to manufacture methamphetamine. The company sold over 59,000 gallons of CFC-113, for over $12 million, between August 1996 and December 2000, which could potentially have been used to manufacture over 88 tons of methamphetamine. The investigation resulted in the seizure of chemicals, weapons, currency and vehicles.
Despite an Indictment, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and federal law.