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East Los Angeles Man Sentenced To Prison For Transporting Dangerous Fireworks In Unmarked Truck

usdoj.gov, Sep 07, 2005

An East Los Angeles man was sentenced today to 21 months in federal prison for transporting more than 28,000 pounds of explosive fireworks without warning placards (signs) from Nevada to Los Angeles in June 2004.

Joe Eduardo Gonzales Avila, 40, was sentenced this morning by United States District Judge S. James Otero for transporting fireworks that are banned in California, including exploding shells and mortars. Avila pleaded guilty on August 27 to transporting hazardous materials without the required placards on the vehicle.

Avila and his co-defendant, Horacio Anguaiano, 22, of Compton, conspired to unlawfully transport the fireworks from Pahrump, Nevada to Los Angeles in Avila's tractor-trailer truck in early June 2004. On June 5, California Highway Patrol officers followed the tractor-trailer being driven by Avila on Interstate 15 from Barstow to Los Angeles. Avila was followed by Anguiano, who was in a "chase" car. CHP officers searched the tractor-trailer in the City of Commerce and found approximately 28,690 pounds of illegal fireworks.

The tractor-trailer was not placarded with the required "explosives" warning symbols as required by federal transportation regulations. Avila, who was not licensed to transport hazardous explosive materials, intentionally drove around a state inspection station in order to avoid detection by state authorities. These fireworks were destined to be distributed throughout the Los Angeles area.

The transportation, possession, sale and use of fireworks is highly regulated within the State of California. Federal law specifically forbids the transportation of more than 1,000 pounds of fireworks in a vehicle that is not placarded on each end and each side with a diamond-shaped warning symbol. The warning placards are specifically designed to provide notice to emergency personnel, such as policemen and fire fighters, who are responding to accidents involving such hazardous loads. If Avila's truck had been involved in an accident or fire, public safety officers responding to the scene would have had no warning of the hazardous nature of the explosive load in the trailer and, therefore, would not have known how to properly and safely respond to such an emergency.

The illegal fireworks seized in this case were destroyed under the supervision of the State Fire Marshal. On October 25, Anguiano pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport explosives, and he is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Otero on February 14, 2005.

These cases are the result an investigation conducted by the Area E Arson Task Force and the CHP's Cargo Theft Interdiction Program, which includes the United States Department of Transportation - Office of Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Los Angeles Police Department, the Downey Fire Department, and the Montebello Fire Department. The Office of the Los Angeles City Attorney participated in the prosecution.

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