News and Press Releases

MIAMI MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO ILLEGAL REFRIGERANT SMUGGLING OPERATION

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 26, 2011

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division, Atlanta Area Office, and Michael Shea, Deputy Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, announced that defendant Brendan Clery, 34, of Miami, pled guilty today before U.S. District Court Judge Adalberto Jordan to a one count Information charging him with knowingly importing approximately 278,256 kilograms of illegal hydrochlorofluorocarbon - 22 (HCFC-22), contrary to the provisions of the Clean Air Act (CAA). HCFC-22 is a widely used refrigerant for residential heat pump and air-conditioning systems.

The CAA regulates air pollutants, including ozone depleting substances such as HCFC-22. The CAA and its implementing regulations established a schedule to phase out the production and importation of ozone depleting substances, with a complete ban starting in 2030. To meet its obligations under an international treaty to reduce its consumption of ozone depleting substances, the United States issued baseline consumption allowances for the production and importation of HCFC-22 to individuals and companies. To legally import HCFC-22, one must hold an unexpended consumption allowance.

According to court records and statements made in court, in 2005 Clery formed Lateral Investments, a Florida corporation, for the purpose of importing merchandise, including refrigerant gas. Clery was the President of Lateral. Between June and August 2007, Clery illegally smuggled large quantities of HCFC-22 into the United States to sell on the black market. At no time did Clery or Lateral Investments hold unexpended consumption allowances that would have allowed them to legally import the HCFC-22. During 2007, Clery illegally imported approximately 278,256 kilograms or 20,460 cylinders of restricted HCFC-22, with a market value of $1,438,270.

United States Attorney Ferrer said, “The illegal importation of ozone depleting substances threatens our well being and endangers our environment. My Office will continue to support the EPA and ICE in our efforts to enforce our nation’s laws and protect our environment.”

EPA SAC Maureen O’Mara said, “Refrigerant gas depletes the stratospheric ozone layer, which protects people from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation such as skin cancer and cataracts. Today’s conviction sends a clear message that those who place the public at risk in order to make illegal profits will be vigorously prosecuted.”

“The effort to protect the ozone layer is a great success, but the job is not finished yet; scientists report that thinning continues to occur seasonally not just in the Antarctic, but also increasingly at the North Pole,” said Drusilla Hufford, U.S. EPA Stratospheric Protection Division Director. “When we prevent smugglers from illegally profiting by bringing falsely documented ozone depleting chemicals into the U.S., we are protecting the health of Americans and the ozone layer as well.”

“The unlawful importation of goods poses a triple threat to the national security, public safety and economic well-being of the United States,” said Michael Shea, Deputy Special Agent in Charge of ICE HSI in Miami. “This case is another example of ICE’s partnership and aggressive approach with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and EPA to protect the American public from inferior and unsafe products that illegally enter the United States and combat those who exploit our commerce system and compromise the safety of our citizens.”

Sentencing has been scheduled for July 29, 2011 at 9:00 AM. The statutory maximum term of imprisonment for Clery is 20 years and a fine of $250,000. In addition, the defendant could be ordered to forfeit the illegal proceeds of his conduct.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the Environmental Protection Agency, Criminal Investigation Division, ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Criminal Investigation Bureau. The case is being prosecuted by Special Assistant U. S. Attorney Jodi A. Mazer.

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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