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Rockland Man Indicted For Illegal Importation Of Freon

Release Date: 06/08/1999
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(#99090) New York, NY -- Zachary W. Carter, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, John C. Varan, Special Agent-in-Charge, United States Customs Service, New York and William J. Muszynski, Deputy Regional Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Region 2, announced today the unsealing of a federal indictment and the arrest of Alex Roitman on environmental crimes arising out of a 1995 scheme to smuggle some 72,000 pounds of the refrigerant commonly known as Freon from Russia into the United States. The indictment, returned by a grand jury sitting in Uniondale, New York, charges the defendant with conspiracy, the receipt and transportation of unlawfully imported merchandise, violations of the Clean Air Act, and money laundering.

For decades, Freon and a group of similar gases known as chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, were used widely as refrigerants in air conditioners and cooling units in industrial, commercial and residential settings, as well as in automobiles. More recently, CFCs have been linked with the destruction of the earth's atmospheric ozone layer, which filters out much of the sun's radiation. In 1990, Congress enacted amendments to the Clean Air Act mandating the phase-out and eventual ban of CFCs from importation and use in the U.S. as part of a global treaty known as the Montreal Protocol. The increasing scarcity of CFCs, coupled with the continued demand, has spawned a lucrative black market, with the refrigerant gas commanding prices of up to $30 a pound.

The indictment alleges that Roitman, acting under various aliases and through companies located in Bayshore and Long Island City, New York and Moscow, shipped 1,200 cylinders each containing approximately 30 pounds of Freon from Russia to the Port of Houston, Texas, in June 1995 and then to a warehouse in Brownsville, Texas, under shipping documents claiming the merchandise would be immediately shipped to Mexico. Once in Brownsville, however, the indictment alleges that Roitman purchased an additional 1,170 empty cylinders, which were switched with those containing Freon. The empty cylinders were sent to Mexico along with false shipping papers, while the cylinders containing Freon were trucked from Brownsville to a Long Island City, New York, auto body shop where Roitman took possession and sold them locally.

A second 1,200-cylinder shipment from Russia arrived in Houston on August 2,1995, but was returned after Customs agents in Brownsville seized the above-mentioned cylinders and false shipping papers at the U.S. Mexico border.

If convicted, Alex Roitman faces a maximum sentence of 5 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine on the charges of conspiracy, transportation and receipt of fraudulently-imported merchandise and violations of the Clean Air Act, and 20 years of imprisonment and $500,000 fine for the money laundering conspiracy.

The government's case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney James Miskiewicz. The case was investigated by the U.S. Customs Service in Texas and New York, with support from the U.S. EPA in New York.

The defendant will be arraigned today at the U.S. Courthouse in Hauppauge, New York, before the United State Magistrate Judge Arlene R. Lindsay.

For more information contact:
Mary Mears, Press Office
EPA Region 2
290 Broadway
NY, NY 10007-1866
Voice: 212-637-3669 FAX: 212-637-5046 E-Mail: