Ahmed el-Sherif, the owner/operator and radiation safety officer for Beta Chem Laboratory in Lenexa, Kansas, was charged today with illegally storing hazardous waste and obstructing an agency proceeding, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeff Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Attorney Tom Beall for the District of Kansas, and Jessica Taylor, Director of the Criminal Investigation Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to allegations contained in the two-count indictment:
El-Sherif, 61, a chemist, started Beta Chem in the mid-1990s, which he owned and operated. Beta Chem used radioactive Carbon-14 and solvents in the operation, under license by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). KDHE has assumed certain regulatory authority from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission under the Atomic Energy Act. In September 2005, KDHE performed an inspection of Beta Chem and discovered extensive radioactive contamination in the laboratory, and the next day issued an Emergency Order of Suspension of License. U.S. EPA conducted a hazardous waste inspection the same month, and subsequently notified el-Sherif of hazardous waste violations under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). During the ensuing years, KDHE communicated with el-Sherif about the radioactive contamination at Beta Chem. On October 4, 2013, after issuing an Emergency Order to Seize and Secure Radioactive Materials, KDHE took control of Beta Chem and secured the facility.
The Criminal Investigation Division of EPA executed a search warrant at Beta Chem on January 22, 2014, where agents discovered numerous containers containing hazardous wastes and contaminated with radiation. EPA’s Superfund program subsequently engaged in a removal action and disposed of the hazardous waste at a cost of over $760,000. In the process of assessing el-Sherif’s ability to pay for cleanup costs, EPA requested financial information. El-Sherif submitted three Beta Chem tax returns to EPA that he falsely claimed had been filed and that contained fictitious and misleading information.
An indictment is an allegation based upon a grand jury finding of probable cause. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until convicted. If convicted of both charges, el-Sherif faces up to ten years in prison, and also could be fined.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood and U.S. Attorney Beall thanked the U.S. EPA for its work in this investigation. This case is being prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Senior Counsel Krishna S. Dighe with the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section in Washington, D.C., and Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Mattivi are in charge of the prosecution.