Miami Man Sentenced to Prison for Smuggling Refrigerant

U.S. District Court Judge Adalberto Jordan sentenced Brendan Clery, 34, to 18 months in prison and ordered him to pay a $10,000 criminal fine and forfeit illegal proceeds in the amount of $935,240. Clery pleaded guilty in April 2011 to knowingly importing approximately 278,256 kilograms of illegal hydrochlorofluorocarbon - 22 (HCFC-22, also known as R-22) into the United States. HCFC-22 is an ozone-depleting substance regulated by EPA under the Clean Air Act (CAA). HCFC-22 depletes the ozone layer, resulting in increased ultraviolet radiation-B (UV-B) reaching the Earth’s surface, which in turn leads to a greater chance of overexposure to UV radiation and the risks of health effects, such as skin cancer, cataracts, and suppression of the immune system.

"EPA takes seriously the smuggling of illegal substances that can harm the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful UVB radiation that can cause skin cancer and cataracts,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Today’s sentencing is an example of EPA’s commitment to aggressively enforce U.S. laws and meet our international obligations."

According to court records and statements, in 2005, Clery formed and served as president of Lateral Investments LLC, a corporation he established in Florida for the purpose of importing merchandise, including refrigerant gas he intended to sell illegally. Between June and August 2007, Clery illegally smuggled approximately 278,256 kilograms or 20,460 cylinders of restricted HCFC-­22 from China, with a market value of $1,438,270, and at no time did Clery or Lateral Investments hold the consumption allowances required to legally import HCFC-22.

EPA established a schedule to phase out the production and importation of ozone-depleting substances, with a complete phaseout starting in 2030. To meet its obligations under the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer, EPA issued baseline consumption allowances for the production and importation of HCFC-22 to individuals and companies. To legally import HCFC-22 for consumption, one must hold and expend one consumption allowance for each kilogram of HCFC-22 imported into the United States.

This case was part of a larger criminal investigation known as Operation Catch-22. It was investigated by the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Criminal Investigation Bureau, and prosecuted by special assistant U. S. Attorney Jodi A. Mazer.

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