Exclusive: Ride-along with Pomona police as they bust illegal fireworks sellers

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Wednesday, July 3, 2019
Pomona police going after illegal fireworks sellers
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A team of undercover Pomona police officers gave Eyewitness News exclusive access as they set up buys of illegal fireworks and then busted the sellers.

POMONA, Calif. (KABC) -- As July 4 approaches, law-enforcement agencies are working hard to ensure it's a safe holiday by going after sellers of illegal fireworks.

One team of undercover Pomona police officers gave Eyewitness News exclusive access as they set up buys and then busted alleged firework sellers.

In one bust, the officers swoop in to take down the alleged seller in the parking lot of a medical building. It's the 10th bust of illegal fireworks in the last few days.

All fireworks, even the safe-and-sane variety, are illegal in Pomona.

Possessing them is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and possibly up to six months in jail. Sellers are, of course, also out potentially thousands of dollars they spent to acquire the seized inventory.

The officers used social media and other outlets such as Craigslist to set up buys.

This was supposed to be an $800 deal. Instead, it's another bust.

Isaiah Martinez says he went to Nevada to pick up thousands of dollars worth of fireworks to sell in Southern California.

"I mean it's a business you know," Martinez told Eyewitness News. "You never know if you're going to get caught up in some (expletive) but that's what the (expletive) happens you know."

The officers went back to Martinez's Inland Empire home to seize the rest of his stash. They tell Eyewitness News the estimated street value for all of it is between $10,000 to $15,000.

The head of this law-enforcement group, who asked us not to use his name or show his team's faces, says sellers are pretty creative using Facebook and other platforms to sell merchandise.

For example posts may show Oakley sunglasses fireworks edition or Adidas firework-edition shoes. But once you click on the details of the listing, you see it's actually offering a variety of illegal fireworks. The posts are disguised to prevent site administrators from taking them down.

The police chief ordered the crackdown. So far police have seized 1,600 pounds of illegal fireworks in the past couple of days.

"Safety is our top priority for our community and our residents," Pomona police spokesperson Aly Mejia said. "And we just want them to have a safe and happy Fourth of July."