MIAMI — Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. 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; and Alysa D. Erichs, special agent in charge, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (ICE-HSI), recently announced that defendant Carlos A. Garcia pleaded guilty in connection with the illegal receipt, purchase, and sale of HCFC-22 that had been smuggled into the United States.

Sentencing has been scheduled before U.S. District Judge Cecilia Altonaga for June 26, 2012. Garcia faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Garcia pled guilty to Count 4 of the indictment, which charged him with knowingly receiving, buying, selling, and facilitating the transportation, concealment, and sale of approximately 13,600 kilograms of HCFC-22. Garcia’s employer, Mar-Cone Appliance Parts Co., was previously convicted and sentenced for related conduct and ordered to pay a $500,000 criminal fine, a $400,000 community service payment, and was ordered to forfeit to the United States $190,534.70 in illegal proceeds.

The Clean Air Act and its implementing regulations established a schedule to phase out the production and importation of ozone-depleting substances, including R-22, beginning in 2002, with a complete ban starting in 2030. As part of these regulations, the federal government issued baseline allowances for the production and importation of HCFC-22 to individuals and companies. In order to legally import HCFC-22, one must hold an unexpended consumption allowance.

According to court records and proceedings, Garcia was the senior vice president of Marcone’s Heating and Cooling division responsible for executing legal purchases and sales of refrigerant gas. Instead Garcia engaged in a pattern of conduct to purchase and sell black market HCFC-22. The investigation revealed that he would routinely seek out and arrange the purchase of HCFC-22 from various importers who did not hold the required unexpended consumption allowances, totaling approximately 55,488 kilograms of restricted HCFC-22, with a fair market value of approximately $639,458. The refrigerant gas was distributed by Marcone throughout the United States.

Officials said this matter and others involving the smuggling and distribution of ozone-depleting substances are being investigated through a multi-agency initiative known as Operation Catch-22. Operation Catch-22 has, to date, included the successful conviction of nearly a dozen individuals and corporations.

Publication date: 6/18/2012