SAN FRANCISCO -- A San Pablo man and a Pacifica man were arrested by San Francisco police last week after investigators uncovered a horde of more than 600 explosives that "could have leveled their homes and damaged surrounding neighborhoods," authorities said.
Sean Patrick Gunther, 37, and Marc Steven Ormando, 47, were booked March 6 on multiple counts of unlawful possession and sales of destructive devices after a months-long investigation into an incident with one of the devices at a North Beach nightclub corridor, San Francisco police Sgt. Danielle Newman said. Surveillance video from a stretch of Broadway Street led to the identification of one of the suspects, and investigators went on to discover the two not only possessed, but built and sold explosives inside of their homes.
Investigators obtained a warrant to search their homes after they tried to purchase some of the items undercover, Newman said. San Francisco police, along with the FBI, U.S. Marshals and a Marin County Task Force, found a cache of explosives and barrels of explosive making chemicals inside Ormando's Pacifica home, along with 17 handguns and rifles.
Additional explosives and illegal narcotics were discovered at Gunther's San Pablo home, said Newman, who added that more than 600 explosives were found between the two residences.
"Had something occurred in one of the homes, it would have been catastrophic, and most certainly could have leveled their homes and caused damage to the surrounding neighborhoods."
"These were big items -- we're not talking about firecrackers," Newman added. "We're talking about something much larger and much more destructive. This wasn't just something you throw out at a party and scare the kids."
Authorities would not say how many explosives the two men sold or if any of them were used.
The California Health and Safety Code defines an illegal explosive as any device consisting of an explosive pyrotechnic that exceed 50 milligrams in weight, "in a fused container whose primary function is to produce an audible effect."
The devices found in Gunther and Ormando's homes had a pyrotechnic weight "in the hundred of thousands" of milligrams, exceeding the legal limit for pyrotechnics thousands of times over, Newman said. Also listed in Ormando's string of charges was an additional child endangerment count, suggesting he had a child living or visiting within proximity to the haul of explosives.
Gunther was booked on eight counts of possession of a destructive device, eight counts of reckless or malicious possession in public or private, eight counts of sale or transportation of destructive devices and one count each of unlawful possession of explosives with knowledge and possession of methamphetamine.
Ormando was booked on ten counts of possession of a destructive device, ten counts of reckless or malicious possession in public or private, and one count each of possession without a permit for materials to make explosives, unlawful possession of explosives and child endangerment.
Bail was set at $2 million for Ormando, $1.5 million for Gunther.. The pair pleaded not guilty Thursday in San Francisco Superior Court despite officials' early assumptions the case would be charged federally. The case will be turned over from the San Francisco District Attorney's Office to the DA in San Mateo County due to the location of the explosives' discovery.