Sandia Park Company Owner Tells Story Behind Illegal Fireworks Case

(Alamagordo Daily News 07/25/2007)

(By The Associated Press)

ALBUQUERQUE — When Bob Lazar decided his scientific supply company should offer fuses, tubes and other “things of a fireworks nature,” he checked first with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the FBI, the fire department and building and zoning.

They said everything was fine, so Sandia Park-based United Nuclear Scientific Equipment and Supplies — which consists of Lazar and his wife, Joy White — began selling the items.

They had no idea, Lazar said Monday, about a U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission rule that prohibits selling items to make fireworks along with information on how to make them. Since United Nuclear’s Web site contains information on “how you safely make fireworks,” that constituted a kit under commission rules, Lazar said.

Lazar said he routinely works with federal agencies because of the nature of the scientific supply business, but he said he never heard from the commission.

The first inkling the couple had of a problem came in 2003 when Lazar and White ended up handcuffed on their front law[n] after an early morning raid by a SWAT team, he said.

“Obviously, these guys thought something else was going on,” he said.

Scott Wolfson, a spokesman for the Commission Products Safety Commission in Washington, said the commission investigated, but the raid was conducted by federal law enforcement agents.

While he said he could not address the specific incident, “we know the formula that is used to make highly illegal, highly dangerous fireworks. … We have had the experience where part of a town has had to be evacuated because of individuals stockpiling chemicals and components used to make illegal fireworks.”

In the case of United Nuclear, nothing further happened until a court hearing last Friday.

U.S. Magistrate Lorenzo Garcia fined the firm $7,500 and placed it on probation for three years. A consent decree limits the amount of fireworks-related chemicals the company can sell; prohibits sales of  fuses, tubes, and end caps; and requires United Nuclear to destroy remaining components and specified chemicals.

The commission’s acting chairwoman, Nancy Nord, last week called the case a victory for consumer safety.

Despite that, Lazar sees the magistrate’s decision as a victory for his company because the commission sought $30,000 — a $10,000 fine for each of three times the agency bought the questioned items.

“Our attorney said, ‘Get real, these people have never done anything,'” Lazar said.

The commission unnecessarily spent taxpayer money and several years “for something that could have easily been taken care of with a simple phone call or visit, like every other federal agency has done with u,” he said.

“I remain amazed to this day that that’s how this went down,” he said.

— End