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Contraband
02/11/2010

Florida man and company sentenced for smuggling ozone-depleting substance

Associate pleads guilty to false customs declarations

MIAMI - The president of Kroy Corporation, a Florida business with its main operations in Miami, was sentenced to 30 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release on charges related to the smuggling of ozone-depleting substances. The case was jointly investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Juan Garrido, 44, of Miami was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Patricia A. Seitz.

Kroy Corporation was sentenced to five years probation. Both Garrido and Kroy Corporation were ordered to pay a criminal fine of $40,000 and to forfeit $1,356,160 to the United States.

An associate working for Kroy and Garrido, Amador Hernandez, 43, of Miami, pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of making false statements and declarations on customs entry forms to disguise the illegal merchandise being imported.

Hernandez pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke to willfully and knowingly entering and attempting to enter hydro chlorofluorocarbon-22 (HCFC-22) using false invoices and declarations.

Hernandez faces a possible statutory maximum term of two years in prison. His sentencing is set for April 21.

Kroy, established in Feb. 2007, was in the business of importing merchandise, including refrigerant gas. 

Between March 2007 and April 2009, Kroy and Garrido engaged in the smuggling of large quantities of HCFC-22 into the United States for subsequent resale.

The defendants routinely declared imported merchandise as either legal HFC-134A refrigerant gas or as United States Goods Return.  Except for a small quantity of legal refrigerant strategically placed in front of the contraband, the shipments contained HCFC-22 and were accompanied by false documentation.

Neither Kroy nor Garrido held unexpended consumption allowances that would have allowed them to legally import the HCFC-22.

From 2007 to April 2009, Kroy and Garrido illegally imported approximately 418,654 kilograms, or 29,107 cylinders, of illegal HCFC-22 in 11 separate shipments, with a total fair market value of more than $3.9 million.

Hernandez was in the business of facilitating importation of merchandise, including refrigerant gas, by completing the necessary customs entry paperwork.  He completed customs entry paperwork for four of the illegal importations in early 2009.

In each of those shipments, Hernandez declared the merchandise as either refrigerant gas HFC-134A, HFC-404A or HFC-410, and as United States Goods Return, when in fact the shipments contained predominantly restricted HCFC-22.  He completed false paperwork for approximately 82,852 kilograms, or 5,116 cylinders of HCFC-22, with a fair market value of more than $700,000.

"The unlawful importation of goods poses a triple threat to the national security, public safety and economic well-being of the United States," said Anthony V. Mangione, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Investigations in Miami. "This case demonstrates 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."

U.S. Attorney Jeffrey H. Sloman stated, "The defendants jeopardized the global effort to restore and protect the ozone for their own financial benefit.  Such conduct is short-sighted and inexcusable. We will continue to aggressively enforce federal laws that seek to protect our environment."

EPA Special Agent in Charge Maureen O'Mara said, "HCFCs deplete the stratospheric ozone layer, which is critical to life on earth and protecting people from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation, including cancer.  EPA is committed to working aggressively with ICE and other agencies to combat such criminal conduct, preventing these dangerous smuggling operations, and preventing flagrant violations of our Nation's environmental laws.  These sentences and the guilty plea send a strong message that those who jeopardize public safety in order to make illegal profits will be vigorously prosecuted and punished."

The case was prosecuted by Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jodi A. Mazer.