Feds Bust 4th At Fireworks Business

Posted: June 25, 1988

The quiet, tree-lined Bucks County street of colonial executive homes seemed an unlikely spot to run a large-scale illegal fireworks business.

And the house where the business was run seemed even more unlikely - the owner was the former head of the Philadelphia office of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.

But Thursday night, ATF agents raided their ex-boss's Lower Makefield Township home, occupied by tenants, and seized two vanloads of fireworks and explosives - enough to level the house and surrounding properties. No arrests were made, though state and federal charges were expected to be filed soon.

"There is absolutely no connection between the illegal activity and the owner of the house," said Special Agent David Troy, who took over the Philadelphia ATF office on Mar. 1.

The house is owned by Donald E. Cox, who retired Dec. 31 as the special agent in charge of the Philadelphia ATF Office and moved to Moultrie, Ga.

Yesterday, neighbors said they had seen the computers and office set up in the living room of the Marlboro Road home. And they had seen the steady traffic of vans, mostly with New Jersey tags, loading boxes twice a day and the tractor-trailer that once made a delivery in the middle of the night.

What neighbors couldn't understand is why Cox "would rent to that type of individual" about eight or nine months ago, said neighbor Raymond O'Hara. ''It seems nuts," said O'Hara.

Cox could not be reached for comment. His wife, Joan Cox, said the incident was "a surprise, isn't that crazy?" She added that they rented the house to ''another party," but did not identify whom.

Authorities said ATF seized six to eight boxes of the highly volatile Class B explosives, while Lower Makefield Township police seized two vanloads of the less-powerful illegal fireworks as a result of a joint federal-local investigation which began more than two months ago.

Lower Makefield Detective Sgt. William Walton there were enough fireworks to "have leveled that house and damaged several others which are relatively close together."

Shortly after midnight yesterday, members of the Philadelphia Bomb Squad arrived to transport the explosives to the Philadelphia Police Academy where ATF has a storage bunker.

Bomb squad Officer William Borbridge said 13 boxes of explosives were being stored in the bunker at the academy.

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