Miami Man Pleads Guilty in Illegal Refrigerant Smuggling Operation
Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Maureen O’Mara, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Criminal Investigation Division, Atlanta Area Office, Drusilla Hufford, Director, EPA’s Stratospheric Protection Division, and Alysa D. Erichs, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), Miami Field Office, announced that defendant Norberto Guada, 43, of Hialeah, Florida, pled guilty yesterday in U.S. District Court in Miami on charges of knowingly importing approximately 15,640 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.
U.S. District Judge Donald Graham accepted Guada’s guilty plea to one count of the multiple-count indictment that had been filed against Guada and co-defendant Jorge G. Murillo. Guada faces a possible sentence of up to twenty years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and three years of supervised release. Sentencing is scheduled for December 11, 2012 at 2:20 p.m.
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 a factual statement filed in court yesterday, Guada was hired as a salesman in February 2007 by a company known as Lateral Investments LLC (Lateral). Lateral was a Florida corporation, engaged in, among other things, importing merchandise, including refrigerant gas. Between June and August 2007, Lateral illegally smuggled large quantities of HCFC-22 into the United States to sell on the black market. At no time did Lateral or its principals hold unexpended consumption allowances that would have allowed them to legally import the HCFC-22.
In this way, during 2007, Lateral illegally imported approximately 278,256 kilograms or 20,460 cylinders of restricted HCFC-22, with a market value of $1,438,270, which Guada was tasked with selling to businesses in the South Florida area. As part of his agreement in this matter, Guada specifically admitted to his knowing involvement in the importation and sale, contrary to law, of 15,640 kilograms of HCFC-22 on August 10, 2007.
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 was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jodi A. Mazer and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald.
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.