WASHINGTON—Fifteen people and three businesses have been charged with smuggling illegal chlorofluorocarbons for use as auto air conditioner refrigerants, the Justice Department announced Jan. 9. Indictments were brought against suspects in Texas, California, Florida, Pennsylvania and Georgia.
Nearly 900 tons of CFC-12, the auto A/C refrigerant also known as Freon, were involved in these operations, the Justice Department said.
Most of the contraband CFCs came from Mexico, and CFCs now rank second behind drugs as the chief black-market item on the U.S.-Mexican border, according to the department.
The indictments represent the beginning of a crackdown on CFC smuggling, said Attorney General Janet Reno at a Jan. 9 press conference.
``To CFC smugglers, we say: We will find you, we will shut down this black market, and we will not let you endanger our ecosystem and our children for a few dollars,'' Ms. Reno said.
Joining her at the press conference were Carol M. Browner, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and officials of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Customs Service.
The U.S. banned the manufacture and import of CFCs in January 1996, nine years after it signed the Montreal Protocol for a worldwide ban on the substances, blamed for depleting the Earth's ozone layer.