LOS ANGELES – A Garden Grove man was arraigned this afternoon on an indictment that charges him with illegally importing a large shipment of a highly regulated chemical compound known as R-22 under the pretense that he was actually bringing into the United States a safe refrigerant that does not destroy the ozone layer.
Mahmoud Alkabbani, 63, the owner of USA Car Parts in Garden Grove, pleaded not guilty this afternoon to the nine-count indictment. A trial date was set for August 8.
Alkabbani was arrested Friday evening at Los Angeles International Airport after he returned to the United States from a trip abroad. At today's arraignment, he was ordered released on a $30,000 bond.
R-22 is R22Chlorodifluoromethane, sometimes known as HCFC-22, a refrigerant gas and class II ozone-depleting substance. Pursuant to international treaty, the use of R-22 is being phased out around the world. In the United States, pursuant to the Clean Air Act, only parties with unexpended “consumption allowances” are allowed to import the chemical.
According to the indictment, Alkabbani entered into an agreement with a Chinese company to purchase R-22, which was packaged in cylinders bearing counterfeit “Glacier” trademarks. The 2013 contract with the Chinese company listed the product as R-134a – which is not regulated by the Clean Air Act and does not deplete the ozone layer – but a second, secret agreement called for the Chinese company to actually sell R-22 to Alkabbani.
The indictment charges Alkabbani with conspiracy, one count of entry of goods by means of false statement, five counts of passing false and fraudulent papers through a customhouse, one count of smuggling and one count of violating the Clean Air Act by improperly selling R-22 to an undercover agent.
If convicted of the nine counts in the indictment, Alkabbani would face a statutory maximum sentence of 132 years in federal prison.
An indictment contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty in court.
The investigation into Alkabbani is being conducted by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and the Environmental Protection Agency.
The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Cameron L. Schroeder of the Cyber and Intellectual Property Crimes Section and Assistant United States Attorney Mark Williams of the Environmental and Community Safety Crimes Section.
Component(s): USAO – California, Central
Contact: Thom Mrozek Spokesperson/Public Affairs Officer United States Attorney's Office Central District of California (Los Angeles) 213-894-6947
Press Release Number: 17-126
Central District of California DOJ / 17-126 / June 20, 2017