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L.A. fireworks crackdown continues with 1-ton bust; seven charged

L.A. authorities charge 11, seize more than 2,000 pounds of fireworks ahead of July 4 holiday

Authorities in Los Angeles have confiscated a ton of illegal fireworks, leading to criminal charges being filed against seven vendors, the latest in a regional crackdown ahead of Friday's July 4 celebrations, the city attorney’s office announced Thursday.

In conjunction with the Los Angeles Fire Department, police at the Port of L.A. and street services, authorities have been inspecting shipments and Los Angeles businesses where the fireworks are allegedly discreetly sold.

On June 27, City Atty. Mike Feuer announced criminal cases were filed against three people for storing or selling some 1,000 pounds of fireworks. The pryotechnic displays are illegal in Los Angeles and can’t be brought in from outside the city.

Feuer announced Thursday that seven more people were charged and hundreds of more fireworks were confiscated.

Many of the fireworks are illegal and not considered “safe and sane,” but even models that are legal in other cities can pose a safety hazard, authorities said.

“Illegal fireworks pose a significant fire danger and a serious safety risk, especially to kids,” Feuer said in a statement.

The defendants named in the latest bust were: Ester Chin, 61; Eileen Soo Hoo, 79; Pik Fan Lam, 54; Jose Guadalupe Avalos, 25; Juan-Jose Alvarado, 31; Moises Benitez-De La Cruz, 30; and Javier Gonzales Ortiz, 25.

Combined, the group was charged with nearly 40 offenses with penalties ranging between six months and a year in jail and thousands of dollars in fines.

Los Angeles police Det. Paul Robi of the city’s bomb squad, which is responsible for the disposal of illegal fireworks, highlighted the risk of improperly storing fireworks and not treating them as a combustion risk at a June 27 press conference announcing the crackdown. His agency has dealt with exploding garages and, in one case, a house that was nearly leveled from a fireworks explosion, he said.

“If one goes, they are all going to go,” he said. “It’s a tremendous hazard.”

Despite the dangers, the financial incentive sustains an illegal market for fireworks, especially around the July 4 holiday.

Illegal fireworks merchants can purchase fireworks in neighboring states and sell them in California for "three or five times what they paid for them,” Robi said.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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