Thursday, December 23, 1999

By George F. Lee, Star-Bulletin
Honolulu police officers Major Stephen Kornegay,
left, and Sgt. Ted Chun sit with confiscated fireworks
at the Kalihi substation. The fireworks were part of
an estimated $250,000 worth of illegal aerial fireworks
seized from the Mililani home of 52-year-old Charlene Hopfe.

Police charge
Mililani woman
with possession of
illegal fireworks

It takes police numerous trips
in several vehicles to haul $250,000
worth of explosives from her home

'Safe havens' set up

By Leila Fujimori


Police have seized an estimated $250,000 worth of fireworks from a Mililani home and arrested and charged a 52-year-old woman with the sale and possession of illegal aerial fireworks without a permit.

Police yesterday said a back room of the woman's home at 95-605 Wehewehe Loop was filled with fireworks and was being used as a display room. They said the seizure on Tuesday yielded an assortment of powerful fireworks, including pipe launchers and rockets, ranging in price from $100 to $500.

An undercover police officer made the arrest after allegedly purchasing fireworks from the woman, Charlene Hopfe. Hopfe posted $500 bail and was released.

If convicted of the petty misdemeanor, Hopfe would face a maximum of six months in jail or a $500 fine.

Police said they did not have enough evidence to charge the woman with being involved in importing the merchandise, a felony. But Major Stephen Kornegay of the Kalihi police station said the amount seized had to have been brought in by ocean freight.

Sgt. Ted Chun of the Crime Reduction Unit said he had never seen some of the types of fireworks before. It took three to four trips by six vehicles, including vans and cars, to haul the explosives to the Kalihi police station, he said.

Chun said the fireworks may have been purchased for $20,000.

The fireworks were stored in the police station. A Specialized Services bomb squad was to have removed them yesterday.

At a news conference yesterday, police said they suspect this kind of activity is taking place in other Oahu neighborhoods, which could pose a threat.

"Our big concern is that all of this is a fire and explosive hazard," Kornegay said.

"The volume that was recovered -- if it was to have accidentally discharged -- would have been a very real threat of death or serious bodily injury not only to the people within the house, but the immediate neighbors."

Police were disturbed that such a large amount of explosives, easily ignited by a spark, could be stored close to other houses.

"Our real concern is that a lot of people, because the mere possession and sale is only a petty misdemeanor and the monetary return is so great, will be tempted to get involved in this type of sales for the quick profit," Kornegay said.

"We really urge them to consider the safety of their children and neighbors."

Police asked anyone with information about illegal fireworks sales in their neighborhood to contact the police department's Crime Reduction Unit by calling 911.

E-mail to City Desk

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