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Wilmington Restaurant Owner Pleads Guilty to Illegal Storage of Explosive Devices

September 21, 2012

WILMINGTON, Del. - Charles M. Oberly, III, United States Attorney for the District of Delaware, announced that Stephen Sparco, age 57, of Wilmington, Delaware, pleaded guilty today in federal court to two counts of improper storage of explosive devices, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 842(j) and 844(b). The defendant faces up to one year in prison, one year of supervised release, a fine, and up to five years of probation for each count.

According to information presented by the Government at the plea hearing, Stephen Sparco is the owner and operator of Madeline’s Restaurant, located at 531 N. Dupont Street, Wilmington Delaware. On April 30, 2012, the Wilmington Fire Department conducted a yearly fire code inspection of the restaurant. During the inspection, the fire department found several long guns and numerous rounds of ammunition in the basement of the restaurant. After calling for assistance from Wilmington Police Department, officers discovered numerous additional firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition and shell casings scattered throughout the restaurant basement. Officers then saw what appeared to be two intact grenades with a blue and red striker lever and pin in an ammunition box. Next to these were nine silver grenade bodies in a green bag with 8 fusing systems.

Once the grenades were discovered, the restaurant was evacuated, the surrounding area was cordoned off, and the Wilmington Explosive Ordinance Disposal Team was called to the scene. Officers seized the grenades and the bag with the grenade bodies and fusing systems. Two of the grenades were live, in that they were plugged, filled with powder, and would explode if activated.

United States Attorney Oberly stated, “The defendant’s improper storage of these grenades created a potential hazard for the patrons of his restaurant and the community. This danger was averted only by Wilmington Fire Department and Wilmington Police Department’s discovery of these items and quick response to secure the scene.”

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney Ilana Eisenstein with the assistance of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

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