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Officials Discover Basement Filled With Fireworks In Mount Pleasant Home

Authorities: There Were Enough Explosives To Level House, Neighbors Houses

MOUNT PLEASANT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A man has been arrested after officials said they discovered hundreds of boxes of commercial-grade fireworks in the basement of a Mount Pleasant home.

As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, police and federal agents said the house on Saldi Lane was safer Tuesday night than it has been in a long time.

There were 18,000 pounds of explosives in Stephen Surace’s home — enough to level the home and possibly some of his neighbors’ homes, authorities said.

Surace, 53, was taken into custody Monday night and charged with criminal possession of a weapon, reckless endangerment and unlawfully dealing fireworks, 1010 WINS reported.

Surace ignored questions after pleading not guilty to the charges and posting $10,000 bail.

“We’re going to vigorously defend this case and no further comments at this time,” defense attorney Max DiFabio said.

Investigators said the discovery came from a tip, which set off a sting operation.

An undercover officer was purchasing about $1,000 worth of fireworks and noticed the basement of the Saldi Lane home in the Valhalla section filled with large boxes of fireworks, WCBS 880’s Jim Smith reported.

“He was selling them out of his house so we had an officer make a buy here and at the same time there were other customers here as well,” said Thomas Gleason, an inspector with Westchester County Police. “It basically looked like a warehouse shopping club where he had cases floor to ceiling in the entire basement of that house.”

As CBS 2’s Amy Dardashtian reported, the potentially deadly explosives were stashed in a neighborhood full of children and in the same home Surace shares with his three sons.

“This is not a little batch of fireworks and sparklers we’re talking about. This is heavy duty pyrotechnics and dynamite,” County Executive Rob Astorino told Dardashtian.

Gleason told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell there were professional-grade explosives in Surace’s unfinished basement.

“He had mortars the size of basketballs that contained large amounts of TNT,” Gleason said.

Surace also allegedly sold the mortar tubes to launch them. Investigators said the industrial-grade fireworks rivaled the fireworks at Macy’s 4th of July celebration.

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Residents of seven homes on the cul-de-sac were evacuated from their homes Tuesday as a precaution while local officials and agents from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives removed the fireworks from the residence.

After filling three box trucks with fireworks, bomb squad officers and ATF agents pushed reporters at the scene back so they could remove 12-inch mortars that contained “substantial quantities of TNT,” 1010 WINS’ Al Jones reported.

Stephen Surace's home on Saldi Lane, Valhalla. (credit: Peter Haskell/WCBS 880)

Stephen Surace’s home on Saldi Lane, Valhalla. (credit: Peter Haskell/WCBS 880)

Many neighbors were concerned following the find.

“Anything can happen,” said neighbor Mary Hagenbuch. “They were in the basement where his boiler is. I mean you need a spark to get your boiler working.”

“It’s a little scary and probably not the best choice,” evacuated neighbor Donna Moore told Haskell.

She said Surace, a Little League coach and gas station owner, puts on a July 4 fireworks show every year.

“He always had beautiful displays of fireworks and they were they were professional, you could tell,” Hagenbuch added.

“I am horrified, horrified,” neighbor Denise Sommavilla told Dardashtian.

According to police, the truckloads of fireworks were purchased in Pennsylvania and sold to several people. More arrests could be imminent, Dardashtian reported.

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