Science and Technology News

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Criminal Justice Technology in the News


Law Enforcement News

Drones: New Tool for National City Police, Fire Departments
The San Diego Union-Tribune, (07/16/2018), David Hernandez
The police and fire departments in National City, Calif., have three new drones to aid public safety efforts. Officers and firefighters deployed one of the drones for the first time in June to provide an aerial view of a brush fire. Officials anticipate using the technology for crime scenes, search-and-rescue missions and SWAT incidents.
Link to Article


Mesa Police Department Introduces Its First Therapy Dog
Arizona Republic, (07/10/2018), Angela Forburger
The Mesa Police Department in Arizona is training the first dog in its new Therapy Canine Program, which was created to help support victims of abuse. The 16-week-old English Labrador will go through various types of training and certifications before being exposed to the public. The dog's primary role will be to help provide emotional support to victims by helping them feel more relaxed and open when discussing their experience with investigators.
Link to Article


Massachusetts House Votes to Boost Funding for Police Training
NBC10, (07/18/2018), Eli Rosenberg and Karen Hensel
The Massachusetts House of Representatives has voted to increase funding for police training. The legislation calls for up to $10 million in annual revenue, funded by a $2 fee on all car rentals. The money would go toward increased SWAT and mental health training, forensics and interview interrogation.
Link to Article


Virginia Launches Regional Cyber Workshop Series
August Free Press, (07/19/2018)
Virginia is holding a Regional Cyber Security Workshop Series on building partnerships with local governments. The series began in July and will include seven meetings across the state before concluding at the end of August. The workshops spread awareness of Virginia's cyber security programs, build relationships between state and local information technology officials to facilitate information sharing, and enhance collaboration on regional and statewide cyber initiatives.
Link to Article


Police to Receive New Set of Body Armor Through State Grant
The State Journal, (07/20/2018), David Hamilton
The Frankfort Police Department will use a $19,500 state grant from the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security for new body armor. Homeland Security's Law Enforcement Protection Program provides grants for items such as duty weapons, ammunition and body cameras for law enforcement agencies.
Link to Article


MA Firefighters Issued Ballistic Vests, Helmets
MetroWest Daily News, (07/22/2018), Jonathan Phelps
Firefighter/paramedics in Hopkinton, Mass., are now equipped with ballistic-resistant helmets and body armor. During hostile situations such as an active shooter and mass casualty events, the protective gear allows firefighters/paramedics into the "warm zone" alongside law enforcement to quickly provide life-saving first aid to victims. The warm zone is an area with no direct threat, but a potential for harm still exists.
Link to Article


Corrections News

Task Force Aims to Reduce Number of Women in Illinois Prisons
WTTW, (07/18/2018), Paul Caine
A new task force wants to cut by 50 percent the number of women incarcerated in Illinois. The panel comprises 100 women, including former inmates, corrections officials, judges and prosecutors.
Link to Article


MD Prisons Start Using Electronic Tablets for Inmate Education
WMDC, (07/18/2018), Dani Bozzini
Under a pilot program, the Maryland Department of Corrections will distribute electronic tablets to some inmates so they can study and take the GED test. Officials hope adding tablets will help reduce recidivism and improve computer technology skills. Only programs for learning will be available on the tablets.
Link to Article

Kansas City Area Laboratory Owner Convicted of Illegally Storing Hazardous Waste


Lab Used Radioactive Material and Solvents

Yesterday, a federal judge found Ahmed el-Sherif, the owner, operator, and radiation safety officer for Beta Chem Laboratory in Lenexa, Kansas, guilty of illegally storing hazardous waste in violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, announced Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, U.S. Attorney Stephen R. McAllister for the District of Kansas, and Jessica Taylor, Director of the Criminal Investigation Division of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 

The Honorable Julie A. Robinson issued a written verdict following the trial, which took place in February 2018. El-Sherif wanted, and was permitted, to waive his right to a jury trial and the case was heard by Judge Robinson in what is known as a “bench trial.”

El-Sherif, a trained chemist of Leawood, Kansas, started Beta Chem in the mid-1990s after having worked at several other radioactive synthesis laboratories. He used radioactive Carbon-14 and solvents in his operation, under license by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). KDHE has assumed regulatory authority for these purposes from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission under the Atomic Energy Act.

After Beta Chem was unable to provide KDHE with the required financial assurances regarding decommissioning the lab in the event that it was closed, KDHE inspected Beta Chem and discovered extensive radioactive contamination throughout the laboratory, including some parts of the lab with levels so high their instruments could not accurately read them. The radioactive contamination extended to the laboratory furniture, the equipment, including refrigerators, and containers of chemicals that were supposed to be non-radioactive. The next day, KDHE issued an Emergency Order of Suspension of License. 

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). EPA also informed el-Sherif of his legal obligation to properly manage hazardous waste under RCRA. During the ensuing years, KDHE communicated with el-Sherif about the radioactive contamination at Beta Chem and they entered into a consent agreement in which he agreed to come up with a plan to remediate and dispose of the radioactive waste. While he engaged a number of consultants, el-Sherif never took any action to actually clean up the lab.

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. EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, assisted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, executed a search warrant at Beta Chem on January 22, 2014, where agents discovered numerous containers containing hazardous wastes and contaminated with radiation. EPA determined there to be 1,138 containers at the lab, of which 886 had intact manufacturer labels with no handwriting, which showed many of those to be hazardous. The other containers were field tested for hazardous characteristics before being disposed of. In total, EPA determined there to be over two hundred pounds of hazardous waste, some of which was acute hazardous waste. All of the containers tested were radioactive, and forty-five percent of the contents tested were radioactive.

EPA’s Superfund program spent over $760,000 to remove and dispose of the hazardous waste. 

“The public expects and deserves that those in the business of using dangerous radioactive materials do so in compliance with law,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey H. Wood for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “This defendant breached that trust, deliberately disobeyed the law, and ignored requests by KDHE and EPA to bring his laboratory into compliance with statutes and regulations designed to protect the public and the environment.”

“For years, the defendant knowingly stored hazardous waste with no regard to the serious public health and environmental dangers it posed,” said Special Agent in Charge of EPA’s criminal enforcement program for the EPA Regions covering Kansas Jeff Martinez. “Even when told to stop his dangerous practice, Mr. el-Sherif continued to ignore the risks. Yesterday’s guilty verdict should send a clear message that EPA will hold accountable those who willfully violate the law.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General Wood and U.S. Attorney McAllister thanked the U.S. EPA and the FBI for their work in this investigation. This case is being prosecuted by the Environmental Crimes Section of the Department of Justice.  Senior Counsel Krishna S. Dighe and Trial Attorney John E. Arbab with the Department of Justice’s Environmental Crimes Section in Washington, D.C., aided by Assistant U.S. Attorney Anthony Mattivi, are in charge of the prosecution.

Owner Of Russian Import/Export Company Charged With Evading U.S. Export Controls By Smuggling Sensitive Electronics To Russian Military And Intelligence Agencies


NEWARK, N.J. – A resident and citizen of Russia was indicted by a federal grand jury today for his alleged role in an international procurement network that smuggled over $65 million worth of electronics from the United States to Russia in violation of export control laws, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Alexander Brazhnikov Sr., 72, of Moscow, is charged by indictment with one count each of conspiracy to commit money laundering, conspiracy to smuggle goods from the United States, and conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). Brazhnikov Sr. is currently at large.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Brazhnikov Sr. was the owner, chief executive officer, and principal operator of ABN Universal, a privately held Russian microelectronics import/export company in Moscow. His son, Alexander Brazhnikov Jr., 39, of Mountainside, owned and operated four New Jersey-based microelectronics export companies in Carteret, Mountainside, Union, and Manalapan.

Brazhnikov Sr. and Brazhnikov Jr. participated in a sophisticated procurement network that secretly acquired large quantities of electronic components from U.S. manufacturers and vendors and exported those parts to Russia on behalf of Russian business entities authorized to supply those parts to the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB) and Russian entities involved in the design of nuclear warheads and other weapons.

As part of the scheme, Brazhnikov Sr., through his Moscow business, obtained initial requests for quotes for the U.S.-based electronics components from various Russian entities and sent these requests directly to U.S.-based vendors electronically or to his son for implementation. Brazhnikov Sr., Brazhnikov Jr., and others then used Brazhnikov Jr.’s New Jersey export companies to purchase the electronic components from the U.S.-based distributors and re-package them for shipment to Moscow.

In order to obscure the extent of the network’s procurement activities and avoid filing the necessary export control forms, Brazhnikov Sr., Brazhnikov Jr., and others routinely falsified the true end-users and value of the components they exported. Each shipment from the United States was sent to one of 12 false addresses or shell locations in Moscow established at Brazhnikov Sr.’s direction, re-directed to a central warehouse he and others controlled, and ultimately shipped to the end-users in Russia, including the Russian defense contracting firms.

The funds for these illicit transactions were obtained from various Russian purchasers and initially deposited into one of Brazhnikov Sr.’s primary accounts in Russia. In order to further conceal the actual customers and the source of the funds, disbursements for purchases were then made through one or more foreign accounts held by shell corporations in the British Virgin Islands, Latvia, Marshall Islands, Panama, Ireland, England, United Arab Emirates, and Belize, and ultimately into one of Brazhnikov Jr.’s U.S.-based accounts.

The money laundering conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $500,000 fine. The conspiracy to violate the IEEPA carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. The charge of conspiracy to smuggle goods carries a potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Brazhnikov Jr. previously pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme and was sentenced June 30, 2016, to 70 months in prison.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark; the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security, Office of Export Enforcement, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan Carson in New York; and the Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Brian Michael in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s charges.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dean C. Sovolos of the U.S. Attorney’s Office National Security Unit in Newark, with assistance from Trial Attorney David Recker of the Department of Justice National Security Division’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section.

The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and Brazhnikov Sr. is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.