July 5 (UPI) — Police in California have arrested a man on federal charges of illegally transporting tons of illegal fireworks after 17 people were injured last week in an explosion that rocked a Southern Los Angeles neighborhood.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California said in a statement that Arturo Ceja III, 27, was arrested by special agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and charged Saturday with transporting explosives without a license, which carries a statutory maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison.
Ceja was arrested days after police attempted to seize the materials, some of which exploded, on Wednesday.
The explosion occurred inside a bomb disposal trailer where bomb squad officers had placed about 10 pounds of fireworks, destroying the truck and injuring 17 people, including 10 law enforcement officers.
According to the criminal complaint, Ceja is accused of making several trips to Nevada in late June to purchase explosives, including aerial displays and homemade fireworks, that he transported to his LA residence in rental vans.
“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 power,” the complaint said.
Police said on Saturday a tip led officers to Ceja’s backyard, where they found he was storing about 32,000 pounds of fireworks, which is much higher than the authorities’ original estimation of 5,000 pounds. Following a search of Ceja’s residence, authorities also found 140 other homemade fireworks as well as explosives-making components.
“[T]he fireworks were stored outside and in an unsafe manner, namely under unsecured tents and next to cooking grills,” the complaint said. “None of the commercial fireworks or homemade fireworks, which contained explosive materials, were stored in an approved magazine.”
On Sunday, a local assistance center opened to aid residents and businesses affected by the explosion.
The search and seizure was launched last week ahead of the July Fourth holiday weekend. City officials had been warning residents that fire works were illegal in the city of Los Angeles.