Feuer Files Sweeping Criminal Charges Following DTLA Blast

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Patty Nagano took this photo of the fire in a warehouse on Boyd Street from the sixth floor of Teramachi on Third Street on May 16. In the foreground is The Terpene Lab, formerly the site of Smoke Tokes, which was destroyed in a fire in September 2016.

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer announced Friday that his office has filed over 300 criminal charges against the owners and operators of four downtown buildings and three businesses  for alleged fire code and safety violations following a massive fire and explosion in May, which injured 12 of the more than 230 responding firefighters. 

The charges follow multi-agency inspections of the Downtown L.A. buildings and businesses by the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD), LAFD’s Arson Unit, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and the Department of Building and Safety.

Mike Feuer

“The fire and explosion that ripped through the Boyd Street property caused our firefighters great suffering—and came perilously close to costing their lives. We’ll do everything we can to hold the owners and operators of buildings and businesses responsible for complying with our fire and safety codes,” said Feuer. “The public is counting on us to protect them from a potential catastrophe.”

“The Boyd Street Fire was a devastating incident that could have easily turned into an epic tragedy for the LAFD,” said LAFD Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas. “Thanks to the work of our arson investigators, the Fire Prevention Bureau, the LAPD and the City Attorney’s Office, we are one step closer to holding accountable the individuals who may have contributed to the circumstances that precipitated this fire and, hopefully, be able to prevent similar incidents in the future.”

“As a union leader whose top concern is the health and safety of our members, this is personal to me,” said Freddy Escobar, president of United Firefighters of Los Angeles City, IAFF Local 112. “Our firefighters are lucky to have escaped this inferno with their lives. We support the city attorney’s efforts to hold people accountable for their reckless actions that put our first responders in harm’s way.”

The sprawling fire, which was visible from miles away, allegedly started at 327 Boyd St., a building owned by Steve Sungho Lee, which is the location for businesses Smoke Tokes, Green Buddha and Bio Hazard. It quickly spread to 325 E. Boyd St., also owned by Lee and where Green Buddha and Bio Hazard also allegedly operate. Lee was charged with 36 counts for violations at 327 Boyd St. and 50 counts for violations at 325 Boyd St.

Two additional buildings, also owned by Lee, are 309 S. San Pedro St. – where Smoke Tokes also allegedly operated – and 5719 S. Avalon Blvd. Lee has been charged with 46 additional counts for violations at 309 S. San Pedro and three more counts for violations at 5719 S. Avalon.

All four of the properties allegedly were found to have illegal storage of hazardous materials.

Smoke Tokes, as one of the operators of the properties, has also been charged with 36 counts for violations found at 327 Boyd St. and 46 counts for violations found at 309 S. San Pedro. Green Buddha, which is owned by Smoke Tokes, and Bio Hazard – two additional operators – are charged with 36 counts for violations at 327 Boyd St. and 50 counts for violations found at 325 Boyd St.

Charges include violations of the Los Angeles Municipal Code and the California Penal Code. The charges include a multitude of violations including failure to comply with LADBS and LAFD orders for fire code and building code violations.

The most egregious among the violations allegedly occurred at the 327 Boyd property and include conspiracy to endanger the public health, which encompasses failure to maintain aisles, failure to have hazmat warning signs, failure to have no smoking signs, failure to classify hazardous commodities, illegal storage height, over-height storage, failure to obtain a facility permit, hazmat storage without proper permits, improper shelf storage, failure to identify aerosols, failure to have key boxes, failure to have proper sprinkler coverage, and failure to maintain a safe building.

Maximum penalties for Lee are up to 68 years in jail and thousands of dollars in fines. Maximum penalties for Smoke Tokes include up to 41.5 years in jail as well as thousands of dollars in fines. The maximum penalties for Bio Hazard and Green Buddha include up to 43.5 years in jail and thousands of dollars in files.

Arraignment for all cases is scheduled for Nov. 19.

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