WASHINGTON – Dennis Coster, 58, of White Hall, Md., was sentenced today to 12 months in prison followed by three years of supervised release for conspiracy to deal in explosive materials and to create a false entry in a required record, the Justice Department announced. U.S. Judge Marvin J. Garbis of the District of Maryland ordered the forfeiture of $437,000, the value of the proceeds of the offense, and ordered that the company Coster operated, Fireworks Productions Inc., to pay a $65,000 criminal fine.
In pleading guilty, Coster admitted that from January 2000 through July 2005, Coster and Fireworks Productions sold more than 1,000 pounds of explosive materials in the form of display fireworks to an individual who was not licensed to purchase them, and who then illegally resold the display fireworks. Coster and Fireworks Productions admitted that they created invoices that under-represented the quantity of display fireworks that were actually sold to the co-conspirator to conceal the diversion of explosive materials and to prevent the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from discovering the scheme of diverting and reselling the display fireworks.
Display fireworks are the large fireworks that are intended to be used in shows, under the supervision of a trained pyrotechnician. Due to the danger presented by these explosives, federal law requires that any person dealin g in display fireworks must first obtain a federal explosives license or permit from the ATF. The latest report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicates that there were reports of three fireworks-related deaths and an estimated 8,600 hospital emergency room treated injuries in 2010.
“When display fireworks fall into the hands of those without proper training, the results can be deadly,” said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. “As this conviction and sentence demonstrate, we are committed to working with our federal partners to protect consumers from the illegal sale of fireworks and other explosive materials.”
“ATF works to educate and ensure compliance with the explosives industry, due to the dangerous nature of these materials,” says ATF Special Agent in Charge Theresa R. Stoop. “Dennis Coster’s participation in the illegal sale of explosives materials violates Federal explosives regulations, and defies our mission in safeguarding explosives to keep the public safe.”
“The manufacture and sale of professional grade fireworks to consumers is not only illegal, but potentially deadly,” said CPSC Chairman Inez Tenenbaum. “The cooperation among CPSC, ATF and the Justice Department on this case is an example of how government can work together to keep the public safe and hold accountable those who seek to put consumers in harm’s way.”
The case was investigated by the ATF and the CPSC. The matter was prosecuted by Jessica Gunder and Richard Goldberg from the Justice Department’s Office of Consumer Protection Litigation.