A Los Angeles man was arrested by federal agents Saturday and charged with illegally transporting tons of explosives – days after a blast that injured 17 people as local police attempted to safely detonate the fireworks.
Arturo Ceja III, 27, had allegedly been storing around 32,000 pounds of fireworks and “dangerous homemade devices,” including more than 500 boxes of commercial-grade fireworks, in his South Los Angeles home, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles said Saturday.
Ceja is accused of making several trips to Nevada to buy the fireworks – mainly at retailer Area 51 in Pahrump – last month and bringing them back to his home in rental trucks, the U.S. attorney’s office said, noting that fireworks can sell for up to four times as much in California as in Nevada.
Personal fireworks are illegal in California.
The explosion happened Wednesday when Los Angeles police responded to the home and a bomb squad tried to detonate the most “unstable” improvised explosive devices inside a containment vehicle.
“Clearly protocols were followed and pursued, but something happened in that containment vehicle that should have not happened and we don’t know why,” Los Angeles police Chief Michel Moore said Wednesday. “We intend to find out why.”
Ceja told investigators he bought the homemade devices, constructed of cardboard paper, hobby fuse and packed with explosive flash powder, from a man selling them from the trunk of his car in the parking lot of Area 51, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
“Ceja did not possess an ATF explosives license or permit of any kind that would authorize him to transport either aerial display fireworks or homemade fireworks made with explosive materials, including but not limited to flash powder,” the complaint affidavit written by a special agent with the ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives), said.
The complaint added, “[T]he fireworks were stored outside and in an unsafe manner, namely under unsecured tents and next to cooking grills.”
Ceja was expected to remain in custody until his federal court appearance Tuesday.
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