United States Attorney Jenny A. Durkan
Western District of Washington
TULALIP TRIBAL MEMBER SENTENCED FOR ILLEGAL FIREWORKS DEALING
‘Boom City’ Fireworks Stand Owner had Commercial Grade Explosives and Tennis Ball Bombs
LOUIE ROY PABLO, JR., 52, a member of the Tulalip Tribes, was sentenced today in U.S. District Court in Seattle to two years of federal probation, including four months of confinement on work release and two months of home detention with electronic monitoring, for dealing in explosive materials without a license. PABLO operated a fireworks stand at ‘Boom City’ on the Tulalip Reservation in Snohomish County, Washington. In late June 2009, a search of the stand and a nearby storage container revealed hundreds of powerful illegal fireworks that are classified by federal law as explosives. PABLO later pled guilty to selling these items to the public. At sentencing, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Jones called the fireworks “highly dangerous explosives... it was potentially a ticking time bomb at your feet.” Judge Jones noted that young people, inexperienced with fireworks, could have been badly hurt by these explosives.
According to records filed in the case, Tulalip Tribal Police were told, in late June 2009, that PABLO was selling commercial display fireworks and “tennis ball bombs” from his fireworks stand at Boom City. Tulalip Tribal Police and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF) searched PABLO’s stand. They discovered that he was keeping dozens of illegal fireworks, including extremely powerful commercial grade aerial display shells, in cardboard boxes under the stand’s front counter. Agents found hundreds more of these items in a nearby storage container that was also under PABLO’s control. Agents seized a total of approximately 750 illegal items, weighing 323 pounds.
The commercial display shells are considered especially dangerous. Federal law requires a license to possess or sell them. The shells are designed for professional use only, they are required to bear warning labels, and they must be stored in an explosives bunker. PABLO has no federal fireworks license, and many of the shells he was selling from his stand had their warning labels blacked out.
In May of 2010, ATF conducted a demonstration of the explosive power of the commercial display shells. Ten of the shells were placed in the trunk of a car and then detonated together, simulating an accidental discharge during transport. The resulting explosion blew apart most of the car. Any occupants would likely have been severely injured or killed.
In addition to the commercial shells, PABLO sold several other types of dangerous illegal fireworks and explosive devices. The tennis ball bombs were actual tennis balls filled with gunpowder. They were powerful enough to blow a hole through a sheet of plywood, and are classified as illegal improvised explosive devices. PABLO also sold overfilled “M-type” devices that were leaking flash powder, creating an immediate explosion hazard. Finally, PABLO sold single-shot launch tubes that looked similar to legal consumer fireworks, but were heavily overloaded with explosive powder, and launched a hard plastic shell that could spray shrapnel towards bystanders. Photos of some of the devices, and the car exploded by ATF, are in the sentencing memo available here.
“The dangers of diverted commercial explosives and illegal devices cannot be understated,” said Kelvin Crenshaw, Special Agent in Charge of the ATF Seattle Field Division. “Commercial explosives should be left to licensed professionals and illegal devices should be left alone, period. The pathetic reality in this case is that Mr. Pablo was willing to gamble with people’s lives and illegally sell dangerous explosives all for the sake of making money.”
In asking for a prison sentence, Assistant United States Attorney Darwin Roberts wrote to the court that PABLO “had a very large quantity of these items: 750 items, weighing over 300 pounds. By selling these powerful, misleadingly labeled fireworks/explosives to untrained, unlicensed individuals, Mr. Pablo endangered not only his customers, but other members of the community. Having worked in fireworks sales for 30 years, and being aware of the Tulalip Tribe’s regulations, Mr. Pablo knew better. But he deliberately chose to ignore the law, and the Tulalip Tribe’s regulations, in order to enrich himself.”
As part of his sentence, PABLO is prohibited from having any contact with fireworks in any way for the next two years. “You are prohibited from transporting even a package of firecrackers,” Judge Jones told him.
The case was investigated by the Tulalip Tribal Police and the ATF. The case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Darwin Roberts.