Former Miami Resident Sentenced for Smuggling Illegal Refrigerant from China to U.S.

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

MIAMI – Jorge Murrillo, 69, formerly of Miami, was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison for conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act (CAA) by importing over 300,000 kilograms of illegal hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22 (HCFC-22) worth more than $1.5 million from China. HCFC-22 is a widely used refrigerant for residential heat pump and air-conditioning systems.  

According to court records and a Factual Statement filed in court, Murrillo smuggled large quantities of HCFC-22 into the United States to sell on the black market. Murrillo and his co-defendant would negotiate with a Chinese manufacturer for the purchase of large quantities of HCFC-22 and then import them into South Florida ports. At no point did he or his companies or associates hold unexpended consumption allowances that would have allowed the legal importation of HCFC-22. Between June and August 2007 Murrillo conspired to, and otherwise smuggled, approximately 309,536 kilograms of HCFC with a market value of $1.5 million into the U.S. Murrillo resided outside the United States from the time of his indictment in 2012 until his arrest in Miami in May 2022. 

In addition to his prison term, U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham sentenced Murrillo to one year of supervised release. Judge Graham also ordered him to pay $5,794.84 in restitution to Homeland Security Investigations for costs associated with storing the illegal merchandise. Murrillo’s co-defendant, Norberto Guada, was previously convicted in 2012 of illegally importing HCFC-22 and served a federal prison sentence.

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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. Those allowances were incrementally decreased culminating in a complete HCFC phaseout in 2030.  To legally import HCFC-22 during all points in the phaseout, one must hold an unexpended consumption allowance.

Juan Antonio Gonzalez, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida; Charles Carfagno, Special Agent in Charge, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Criminal Investigation Division, Southeast Area Branch; and Michael Buckley, Acting Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Miami Field Office, announced the sentence.    

EPA, Criminal Investigation Division and HSI Miami investigated the case. Customs and Border Protection assisted.  Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Jodi A. Mazer and Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Watts-FitzGerald prosecuted it.  

Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or at http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov, under case number 12-cr-20514.

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