Posted on July 2, 2004

Large Stash of Illegal Fireworks Found (LA), June 30, 2004

A man and his wife were in custody today for allegedly keeping thousands of pounds of illegal fireworks worth at least $200,000 in their El Monte and at a storage facility in Los Angeles, police said.

The couple, Wai Lau and Amy Lam, both 46, were arrested after police went to 10559 Glenfair St. at about 10:30 p.m. yesterday in response to a call that “someone had illegal fireworks,” said El Monte police Detective George Mendoza.

A total of 159 cases of up to 40 different types of illegal fireworks were found in the garage and throughout the house, Mendoza said, and more than 600 cases also were discovered in three separate rooms at Public Storage at 4898 Valley Blvd. in Lincoln Heights.

“We’re here right now and all three rooms are loaded — totally loaded — with cases of illegal fireworks,” Mendoza said before dawn today.

At the , police “found a van parked in the driveway full of several cases of illegal fireworks,” he said.

The suspects, who spoke Cantonese and very little English, told police they had been selling the fireworks for about two months, but declined to disclose clients’ names without an attorney present, Mendoza said.

Police found about $13,000 in cash in their house, where they were living with their 12-year-old son and his grandmother, he said.

The fireworks, likely smuggled in from China, have “a street value of at least $200,000,” Mendoza said.

Los Angeles County Fire Department’s explosives experts were dispatched to confiscate the fireworks, said El Monte police Sgt. Byron Higa.

During the search of the Glenfair Street , officers found receipts that led them to the Public Storage stash, police said.

“We asked them, in the interest of public safety because of the Chinatown incident, for information on the storage facilities,” Mendoza said. “They said they were full of illegal fireworks.”

Mendoza said there was “at least a couple tons here at the house,” and Higa added that a total of “about five to 10 tons” of illegal fireworks likely will be recovered.

Authorities on June 15 found 15 tons of illegal fireworks at a building in Chinatown and other locations in Los Angeles. A man named Bai Ping Yuan was arrested in connection with the discovery, the biggest of its kind ever in Los Angeles.

“Illegal fireworks don’t have the safe-and-sane fire marshall seal,” Mendoza said. “They’re very dangerous because once they’re launched into the air, you don’t know where they’ll land. They’ve got a bigger boom, more gunpowder.”

The stash recovered today is “highly explosive,” the detective said.

“Because the boxes have been moved around so much, if the gunpowder leaked out, just the friction of moving the boxes could set them off,” he added.

“We were told to be careful with cell phone use around them.”

Safe-and-sane fireworks approved by the fire marshall are allowed in El Monte, he said.

A preliminary investigation shows the latest discovery “is not related to the Chinatown incident,” Mendoza said.

“City council wanted zero tolerance on illegal fireworks and we cracked down,” he said. “We have special enforcement teams we started a week ago, where a patrol officer rides with firefighters and cruise the streets of El Monte. Anyone with fireworks will be cited.”


Comments from Readers

From: tjefferson

What many people do not understand is that while western man considers this dangerous and irresponsible non-wester people do not. They do not seem to have the same fore thought that western whites have. Another example is traveling in China. It is recommended that you bring your own utesils because the Chinese standard of clensliness is no where near the western standard. Different standards are often construed as “interesting cultural differences” when they are in reality backwards cultural practices.

From: Dave

Fireworks don’t bother me, I like them. As far as I’m concerned they are no more or less dangerous then the person that owns/uses them. Similar to firearms, motorvehicles, and swimming pools in that regard. Clearly there was a storage safety issue here though.

…”thousands of pounds of illegal fireworks”…

What does concern me is that this could easily read, thousands of pounds of explosives. This has to bring into question the ease at which terrorists can bring in weapons.