r-_22.jpgMIAMI (AP) _ A Miami man was sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to illegally importing refrigerator gas that depletes the ozone layer and can increase ultraviolet radiation.

Brendan Clery, 34, was sentenced Friday. He formed a sham company, Lateral Investments LLC, in 2005 so he could import the illegal substance, hydrochlorofluorocarbon-22, from China and sell it, according to officials with the Environmental Protection Agency.

Between June and August 2007, Clery illegally smuggled approximately 278,256 kilograms or 20,460 cylinders of the restricted gas. The substance has a market value of $1.4 million. Clery did not have the authority to legally import the substance, according to the EPA.

A federal judge also ordered Clery to pay a $40,000 criminal fine and forfeit illegal proceeds of more than $900,000.

The substance, also known as R-22, is regulated by the EPA under the Clean Air Act because of its dangerous effects on the ozone.

“EPA takes seriously the smuggling of illegal substances that can harm the ozone layer, which protects us from harmful UVB radiation that can cause skin cancer and cataracts,'' said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for EPA's office of enforcement and compliance assurance.

EPA established a schedule to phase out the production and importation of ozone-depleting substances, with a complete phase-out starting in 2030.

Clery's case was part of a larger criminal investigation known as Operation Catch-22, which was a joint effort by the EPA and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.