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'Boom City' fireworks stand owner in Tulalip sentenced for illegal fireworks dealing

SEATTLE — Louie Ray Pablo, a 52-year-old member of the Tulalip Tribes, was sentenced Feb. 11 in U.S. District Court in Seattle to two years of federal probation for dealing in explosive materials without a license.

Pablo operated a fireworks stand at "Boom City" on the Tulalip Reservation, and in June of 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.

Tulalip Tribal Police conducted the search with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and discovered dozens of illegal fireworks, including extremely powerful commercial-grade aerial display shells, in cardboard boxes under the stand's front counter. Agents seized a total of approximately 750 illegal items, weighing 323 pounds. Pablo later pled guilty to selling these items to the public, and at his sentencing, U.S. District Judge Richard Jones noted that young people, inexperienced with fireworks, could have been badly hurt by these explosives. Pablo's sentence includes four months of confinement on work release and two months of home detention with electronic monitoring.

Federal law requires a license to possess or sell commercial display shells, which are designed for professional use only, required to bear warning labels and must be stored in an explosives bunker. Pablo had no federal fireworks license, and many of the shells he was selling from his stand had their warning labels blacked out.

The "tennis ball bombs Pablo sold from his stand were actual tennis balls filled with gunpowder, 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, as well as 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.

"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."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Darwin Roberts wrote to the court that 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," Roberts wrote. "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," Jones said.

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