NEW HAVEN, CT — A federal grand jury has returned an indictment charging five men for allegedly engaging in a scheme involving the illegal importation and stateside selling of hundreds of tons of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). They are now facing dozens of charges listed in a 62-page indictment unsealed here on July 30.

CFCs are subject to strict regulation under the Clean Air Act, and the United States has international treaty obligations under the Montreal Protocol to reduce the production and consumption of ozone-depleting chemicals. 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 federal charges allege that the men set up shell companies to import CFCs into the U.S. from Russia, China, and Canada so as to hide the identity of those involved and conceal the proceeds of the sales. In this way, according to the indictment, those charged were able to avoid paying $20 million in excise taxes and $4.5 million in income taxes. They were also charged with the laundering of $2 million in offshore accounts.

Further, the grand jury indictment claims money from the sale of the CFCs went to purchase a 45-foot yacht, diamond jewelry, a multimillion dollar home and a couple of 1998 BMWs, among other items. In addition, some $1.7 million was used to finance a joint power generation venture in the Dominican Republic.

The five listed in the indictment were John Mucha of Guilford, CT; Barry Himes of Lyme, CT; Richard Pelletier of Bolton, CT; Douglas Castle of Huntington, NY; and Alfredo Vega of Hato Rey, Puerto Rico.

The five were charged with conspiring between 1994 and 1997 to defraud the IRS out of excise and income taxes. All but Douglas were charged with conspiring to make false statements to the EPA and Customs Service.

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.

According to the Justice Department, four other individuals in connection with this investigation already have pled guilty to federal charges. Pavel Perlov of Chelsea, MA, pled guilty in February 2001 to conspiracy to obstruct a grand jury investigation. In April, Rudi Endrs of Berwyn, PA, 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, PA, admitted to a misdemeanor tax charge.

Sidebar: Obituary

El Monte, CA — Gary W. Burke, president and ceo of Burke Engineering Co., headquartered here, passed away on August 7 in his hotel room in Del Mar, CA.

Mr. Burke had been in the hvacr industry since 1949, when his father, Bud Burke, founded the company. Gary was secretary-treasurer for the Air-Conditioning & Refrigeration Wholesalers International (ARWI) and was also very active in the Northamerican Heating, Refrigeration & Airconditioning Wholesalers Association (NHRAW).

Mr. Burke is survived by his wife, Georgia, four children, and four grandchildren.

Publication date: 08/20/2001