Nov 10, 2023
Vineland man's fireworks 'hobby' lands him in federal court
CAMDEN — A 64-year-old Vineland man awaiting sentencing in federal court for making explosive devices and keeping them in his home was only pursuing a hobby, his attorney says. On April 4, Thomas
CAMDEN — A 64-year-old Vineland man awaiting sentencing in federal court for making explosive devices and keeping them in his home was only pursuing a hobby, his attorney says.
On April 4, Thomas Petronglo was in U.S. District Court to plead guilty to single counts of possession of a destructive device and of unlawful storage of explosives arising from their location in his residence in March 2021. He potentially faces years in prison and a large fine.
His public defender, Christopher H. O’Malley, said how the federal government became involved is a question for U.S. District Attorney Philip Sellinger to answer.
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“The only thing I can say is the explosive device was never intended, whatsoever, to destroy anything,” O’Malley said on Wednesday. “He had a hobby of making fireworks and this was just one of them.
“However, it fit in the description of a ‘destructive device,’ which he regrets manufacturing,” O’Malley said. “But it was never meant to be actually used as a bomb or anything like that, although it fit technically the statutory definition.”
Petronglo works as a mechanic and a farmer.
O’Malley said a sentencing hearing is anticipated this summer.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office had no comment on the reason for federal involvement.
The office describes the “destructive device” as a 5 ¾-inch diameter metal can, containing a mixture of potassium perchlorate and aluminum, and with a protruding fuse.
Potassium perchlorate and aluminum are the sole ingredients in flash powder, commonly used to make fireworks. Federal law prohibits selling flash powder without a license or using it in a destructive device.
The possession charge has maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The unlawful storage charge has a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $100,000 fine.
Court documents indicate Petronglo was not arrested until October 2021. He was released on $100,000 unsecured bail to a family member and his travel restricted to New Jersey.
In January 2022, prosecutors offered the conditions for a plea deal that leaves sentencing decisions to the discretion of the judge in the case.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jeffrey Bender and Joseph McFarlane are the prosecutors.
Sellinger noted assistance from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosions, Vineland Police Department, Cumberland County Prosecutor’s Office, and New Jersey State Police.
Joe Smith is a N.E. Philly native transplanted to South Jersey more than 30 years ago, keeping an eye now on government in South Jersey. He is a former editor and current senior staff writer for The Daily Journal in Vineland, Courier-Post in Cherry Hill, and the Burlington County Times.
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