Former South Florida Resident Convicted of Smuggling Illegal Refrigerant from China to U.S.

Miami, Florida (7/12/2022) – Yesterday, 69-year-old Jorge Murrillo pled guilty in federal district court in Miami to conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act (CAA) by importing over 300,000 kilograms of illegal hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22 (HCFC-22), worth over $1.5 million, into the United States from China.  HCFC-22 is a widely used refrigerant for residential heat pump and air-conditioning systems.

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.  To legally import HCFC-22, one must hold an unexpended consumption allowance.

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 Murrillo 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 $1,525,670, 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.

Murrillo’s co-defendant, Norberto Guada, was previously convicted, in 2012, of illegally importing HCFC-22, and served a federal prison sentence.

Senior U.S. District Judge Donald L. Graham has set Murrillo’s sentencing hearing for September 20, at 11:00 a.m., in federal district in Miami.  Murrillo faces up to five years in prison.

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 Anthony Salisbury, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Miami Field Office, announced the conviction.

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 are prosecuting 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.