Jul. 1—Weeks after Olyphant police seized three trailers of fireworks from a vacant borough storefront, authorities charged the property's listed owner and her husband with risking catastrophe for dealing in illegal explosives.
Angela Bilski, 42, and John Bilski, 56, each of 430 Delaware St., Blakely, face criminal counts that stem from that storage and from a June 23 sale of illegal fireworks to a confidential police informant in West Scranton, Lackawanna County District Attorney Mark Powell said.
Even the smallest of the homemade explosives seized from John Bilski's shop at Price Street and Edwards Court in the city held enough powder to "blow off the hand or arm of the person holding it," a criminal complaint stated.
"The illegal explosives being sold by the defendants in this case are extremely dangerous and can cause severe injuries or death," Powell said in a statement Thursday. "As we approach the July Fourth holiday, we urge people not to play around with illegal, homemade or black-market fireworks."
The criminal complaint also revealed that John Bilski is a subject in an ongoing investigation "regarding the alleged sale of an explosive device that resulted in the death of a person" in Scranton approximately two years ago. The complaint does not name the victim.
On June 27, 2020, 31-year-old Corey Buckley, of the Minooka section, died from head trauma suffered in the explosion of a commercial-grade firework at Cedar Avenue and Walsh Street.
Powell declined to comment.
The charges come nearly a month after the investigation began with Olyphant police's discovery of an open back door.
On May 30, borough Police Chief James DeVoe and Patrolman Thomas Sakosky checked inside 129-131 W. Lackawanna Ave. — the vacant former Sullum's Bridals of Olyphant — because DeVoe noticed the back door had been left open.
Inside, they found boxes of fireworks stacked almost to the ceiling in the building's rear and more on shelves in what investigators said in search warrant paperwork appeared to be in a "sales display formation." An inventory of explosives seized ran eight pages and filled three trailers, estimated to weigh between 4 and 6 tons.
The building's owner was listed as Angela Bilski.
After news of the seizure spread, borough Sgt. Lewis Kline received numerous tips that John Bilski may be involved in the storage and sale of consumer grade fireworks they took.
Later in June, Kline met with an informant who said they know from past encounters that John Bilski is involved in selling "illegal explosive devices," according to the complaint. Police arranged a recorded phone call with Bilski to purchase explosives.
On June 23, Angela Bilski and her 13-year-old daughter met the informant at John Bilski's West Scranton shop to make the deal. She showed him a collection of "suspected illegal explosive devices" kept inside of a white van parked in front of a commercial garage at Price Street and Edwards Court.
Police said some of the explosives, identified as "M-devices, contained flash powder. That alarmed members of the bomb unit because friction, heat, shock or static electricity could ignite them, according to the complaint. Police searched the building and found 53 large M-devices and 19 small M-devices.
The Blakely couple are charged with risking catastrophe and recklessly endangering another person. Angela Bilski is also charged with child endangerment because her teenage daughter accompanied her to the June 23 sale.
Angela Bilski was released on $75,000 unsecured bail. A preliminary hearing is scheduled July 12. She declined to comment.
John Bilski has not yet been arraigned. Powell said he will turn himself in. Attempts to reach him were unsuccessful.
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