GRANDVIEW, Mo. — A 67-year-old Belton man pleaded guilty to operating an illegal fireworks business that was destroyed in an explosion in Grandview last year.

Thomas McKeehan, of Belton, admitted Friday that he conspired with 76-year-old James Witt, the owner of JW’S Lawn and Garden Equipment, to manufacture and market illegal explosives without a license.

A massive explosion destroyed the business in January 2017.

Prosecutors said the men manufactured thousands of illegal devices by buying and combining chemicals. They also bought and sold commercial fireworks without a license.

Federal prosecutors say after the explosion, McKeehan and Witt loaded several thousand explosives kept in a Belton storage locker into a van, with plans to sell them to someone in Wisconsin.

Witt pleaded guilty in December and is awaiting sentencing.

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