Another arrest in national crackdown on CFC smuggling

One of the largest seizures in Texas of the illegal chloroflourocarbon (CFC) Freon took place on 24 June. The seizure, and arrest of Richard Schmolke on charges of smuggling, is part of a national campaign against the CFC black market.

Schmolke is charged with scheming to smuggle more than 75,000lbs of Freon, or CFC-12, into the US from Venzuela. The Freon had a street value of $600,000.

“The arrest of Richard Schmolke underscores Customs’ continuing commitment to this initiative,” said Raymond Kelly, US Customs Commissioner. “Mr Schmolke is accused of playing a critical role in one of the larger Freon smuggling rings that Customs has ever encountered.”

The national CFC enforcement initiative began in 1995. Since then, 88 people have been convicted and sentenced to a total of 48 years’ incarceration and $68M in fines and restitution. In the past years, 23 defendents have pled guilty or were sentenced in connection with smuggling CFCs into the US.

According to EPA reports, between 15-30 million lbs of Freon were illegally imported into the US in 1994 and 1995. That volume dropped to an estimated 5-10 million lbs in 1996 and 1997.

Fines for pollution offences on the increase

There is evidence that the severity of fines for individuals and companies found guilty of pollution-related offences is on the increase in the US.

Recent cases include the conviction of a man in Ohio on 35 counts of violating the Clean Water Act. William Road admitted that he failed to report the correct levels of ammonia, faecal coliform and other pollutants discharged from six wastewater treatment plants at which he was project manager. The violations took place over a period of 3½ years, from 1993 to 1996. Road will serve a year’s prison sentence, followed by 384 hours of community service and one year supervised release.

In another Clean Water Act case, a Seattle-based company which cleans and repairs marine and industrial diesel engines has been charged with illegally disposing of wastewater. The wastewater contained an engine parts cleaning solution and was discharged into Seattle’s storm drain system which flows into Puget Sound. If found guilty, the defendants face up to one year imprisonment and a £100,000 fine. The company faces a fine of up to £500,000.

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