Grandview, Belton men plead guilty to charges related to illegal - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

Grandview, Belton men plead guilty to charges related to illegal explosives that destroyed business

File photo taken while the business in Grandview was on fire. (Submitted to KCTV5) File photo taken while the business in Grandview was on fire. (Submitted to KCTV5)
KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

A Belton man pleaded guilty in federal court today to illegally trafficking in thousands of illegal fireworks and explosives following an explosion that destroyed a Grandview business last year.

Thomas McKeehan, 67, pleaded guilty before Magistrate Judge Sarah W. Hays to engaging in the business of manufacturing and dealing in explosive materials without a license.

Co-defendant James Witt, a 76-year-old from Grandview, pleaded guilty on Dec. 18, 2017, to participating in a conspiracy to engage in the business of manufacturing and dealing in explosive materials without a license.

Witt was the owner of JW’s Lawn and Garden Equipment at 12010 S. 71 Hwy. in Grandview, which was destroyed in an explosion on Jan. 3, 2017.

Witt admitted that he and McKeehan entered into a partnership to manufacture illegal explosive devices at Witt’s business, and to sell both the illegal explosive devices and commercial fireworks without a license to do so, from January 2015 to January 2017.

McKeehan admitted that their unlicensed trafficking included: About 1,080 commercially packaged 1.3g, 3-inch aerial display shells, about 13,968 M-Series improvised explosive devices, about 3,200 larger M-Series improvised explosive devices, and about 1,633 commercially packaged 1.3g, 3-inch aerial display shells.

Witt and McKeehan purchased bulk supplies of raw chemicals, including aluminum powder, potassium perchlorate, and Sulphur to create an explosive mixture.

They packed the explosive powder in cardboard tubes that McKeehan got. They also purchased and sold commercial fireworks, including 1.3g fireworks, without a license to do so.

Following the Jan. 3, 2017 explosion at JW’s Lawn and Garden Equipment, Witt and McKeehan traveled to McKeehan’s storage unit in Belton and took the fireworks stored there.

On Jan. 17, 2017, Witt and McKeehan moved a white van to a location in Lone Jack, Missouri and loaded the van with commercial fireworks and illegal explosive devices in order to take the explosives to a person in Wisconsin with whom McKeehan had negotiated the sale.

The explosives in the van included the thousands of 1.3g, 3-inch aerial display shells, M-Series IEDs, and larger M-Series IEDs mentioned earlier.

Under federal statutes, McKeehan is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in federal prison without parole.

Witt is subject to a sentence of up to five years in federal prison without parole.

Sentencing hearings will be scheduled after the completion of presentence investigations by the United States Probation Office.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bruce E. Clark. It was investigated by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Previous coverage:

Owner of Grandview business destroyed by explosion in January indicted for illegal explosives

Large fire following multiple explosions inside Grandview business

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