Honolulu man charged with smuggling illegal fireworks

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu resident Gifford Chang, 44, was arrested Friday and charged in a federal criminal complaint with smuggling goods into the United States, making false statements to illegally bring goods into the country, and importing explosive material without a license, all occurring in December 2009.

Florence T. Nakakuni, United States Attorney for Hawaii, said that according to the affidavit filed with the complaint, Chang was the registered agent for Tiger Corporation, the listed importer of four groups of cartons in a shipping container which were determined to contain 1.3G type "commercial fireworks."

Chang and Tiger Corporation were licensed to import "consumer grade" fireworks (1.4G type), but neither had the requisite license to import 1.3G type fireworks.

The affidavit states that as part of the investigation HSI seized these fireworks, which were, except for some samples, destroyed in an explosion on April 8.

The investigation was conducted by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives after officers with the United States Customs and Border Protection inspected the shipping container in Honolulu on December 6, 2009, upon its arrival from Shanghai, China.

"This month's deadly explosion was a tragic reminder about the profound dangers of illegally imported fireworks," said Wayne Wills, special agent in charge for ICE HSI in Honolulu. "Unfortunately, we're seeing a growing volume of illegal fireworks being smuggled into Hawaii. Given the public safety risks, targeting those involved in these activities is a top priority for HSI and its law enforcement partners."

If convicted of the charges, Chang faces maximum penalties of 20 years in prison for smuggling, two years for making false statements, and ten years for importing explosives without a license.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorney William L. Shipley.