Smuggling freon

A typical air conditioner on a car built before 1993 that uses freon needs two to three pounds of the odorless compound. After banning virtually all production and importation of the ozone-destroying refrigerant in the USA in 1996, it was legal to sell and use existing supplies of freon in the USA, but they were expected to run out within two years. American owners of more than 80 million older cars whose air conditioners use freon sent black-market prices spiraling.
By 1996, federal prosecutors in the USA won at least 18 convictions of major smugglers, accompanied by millions of dollars in penalties and sentences of up to 57 months for the biggest violators. A freon case brought the first extradiction for an environmental crime and the first United States felony convictions based on violations of the Federal Clean Air Act amendments on ozone-depleting gases.

In 1996, freon contraband was running second only to marijuana in the seizures made on the border between the USA and Mexico. It was more profitable than cocaine and believed to be bigger business than gun-running.

1. Buying cocaine, converting it to crack and selling it brings a 4-to-1 profit ratio in the USA. Buying a canister of freon in another country for $42 and selling it in the USA for $550 produces a 13-to-1 profit ration. The street price for a 13 kilogram cylinder of freon had more than doubled to well over $500 during one year in 1996.
(J) Problems under consideration