A Miami businessman was sentenced Tuesday to one year and three months in prison for illegally importing large amounts of air-conditioning refrigerant from China.
Jorge G. Murrillo, 69, pleaded guilty in July to conspiring to violate the Clean Air Act by importing more than 680,000 pounds of hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22 that was worth about $1.5 million, according to federal court records.
His plan was to sell the refrigerant on the black market for residential use, prosecutors said. HCFC-22 was widely used for air-conditioning and heat-pump systems but was being restricted for environmental reasons.
Murrillo had been living for a decade outside the country before his arrest in May of this year. He faced up to five years in prison before U.S. District Judge Donald Graham, who gave him the lesser sentence in Miami federal court.
The Clean Air Act regulates air pollutants, including ozone-depleting greenhouse gases such as HCFC-22, which are now being phased out. Under an international treaty to reduce consumption, the United States issued limited allowances for the production and importation of HCFC-22.
To legally import the compound gas coolant, a person or company had to obtain an “unexpended consumption allowance” from the Environmental Protection Agency. A decade-old indictment alleged that Murrillo and his Miami Beach company, JP Money Inc., did not have permission from the federal government when the businessman imported HCFC-22 from China to South Florida in 2007.
According to court records, Murrillo and a co-conspirator negotiated with a Chinese manufacturer and bought large quantities of HCFC-22, importing the refrigerant through South Florida ports. At no point were Murrillo and his company allowed to import HCFC-22 from China, according to federal prosecutor Thomas Watts-Fitzgerald.
Murrillo’s co-defendant, Norberto Guada, pleaded guilty in 2012 to illegally importing HCFC-22. He served six months in prison and another six months of home confinement, court records show.