Nearly 100 boxes of illegal professional-grade fireworks, displayed supermarket-fashion inside a fan-cooled garage in the Whittier area, were confiscated Wednesday night by sheriff's deputies who arrested two men for selling the high-powered fireworks.
"That's how the whole garage was set up--there was a room specifically made for display, they had shelving and had them all in order. They had a calculator in there, invoices, the whole works," said Norwalk Sheriff's Deputy Robert Doeve. "They had it all set up nicely; they had a portable fan in there to keep the garage cool."
An anonymous tip led deputies to the cache-for-cash operation, which they said included about 90 boxes of bottle rockets, M-80s--which pack the equivalent explosive power of an eighth-stick of dynamite--bricks of firecrackers and professional-grade pyrotechnics.
Martin Alva, 68, and his nephew, Leo Cendejas, 30, were arrested and booked on one count each of suspicion of possession of illegal explosives, selling fireworks without a permit, possession of more than one pound of explosives and conspiracy, said a sheriff's spokesman.
It took deputies until nearly dark to load up the fireworks, filling a 3/4-ton truck and a sheriff's van with the pyrotechnics, and hauling them to the Santa Fe Springs Fire Department for storage.
"When we drove up" at about 2:45 p.m., said Doeve, people in the apartments across the street "were out on balconies with binoculars, looking. They knew what was going on."
Two men who had just purchased about $120 worth of fireworks did not, said Doeve. He and his partner stopped the men carrying brown paper grocery sacks full of fireworks as they left the garage, he said. "They had that surprised look, like 'This wasn't supposed to happen,' " Doeve added.