BEF Corp., and Elward Brewer, BEF's founder and president, were both sentenced on April 1, 2005 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of PA for violating the Clean Water Act by discharging heavy metal-laden acidic waste water into sewers operated by the city of Bethlehem and the city of Allentown.
In addition, BEF also pleaded guilty to violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and to making false statement to the government. BEF and Brewer were sentenced to a joint $700,000 penalty, including a $50,000 supplemental environmental project to the Wildlands Conservancy. The judge also ordered the corporation to serve a five-year period of probation.
Brewer was sentenced to six -months house arrest, 36 months of supervised release, and 160 hours of community service involved with an environmental concern or environmental cleanup.
BEF buys used one-hour photo processing machines, refurbishes them an then resells them throughout the world. During the refurbishing process, BEF generated silver, lead, and chromium laden and acidic wastes which were illegally discharged into the sewers. The other charges arose from BEF's illegal exportation of goods to Iran, and from BEF's practice of discounting the fair market value of its photo labs on Shippers' Export Declarations to help its international customers avoid paying import duties.
Unlawfully disposing of heavy metal laden and acidic waste water into sewers can damage sewage treatment equipment and can interfere with the proper treatment of sewage by sewage treatment facilities.
The case was investigated by the Philadelphia office of EPA's Criminal Investigation Division, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Bureau of Immigration and Custom's Enforcement, the U.S. Commerce Department's Office of Export Enforcement, and the Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation. Investigative assistance was provided by EPA's National Enforcement Investigations Center and the Waste Water Treatment Departments of the Borough of Catasauqua, the City of Bethlehem, South Whitehall Township, and the City of Allentown, The case was prosecuted by the US Attorney's Office in Philadelphia, Pa.