East Brookfield man charged with illegally operating a helicopter from backyard

Crime

BOSTON, Mass (WWLP) – An East Brookfield man was arrested and charged in federal court in Worcester Thursday for illegally operating a helicopter in his backyard and making false statements to federal investigators.

In a news release sent to 22News from the U.S. Attorney’s Office District of Massachusetts, 59-year-old Antonio Santonastaso was charged by criminal complaint with one count of serving as an airman without an airman certificate and one count of making false statements to federal agents. He will appear in federal court Thursday afternoon.

According to the charging document, the Federal Aviation Administration revoked Santonastaso’s license to pilot an aircraft in 2000, after allegedly participating in the theft of a helicopter from Norwood Memorial Airport. Santonastaso allegedly operated a Robinson R-22 helicopter, taking off and landing from his backyard, more than 50 times between April 28, 2018 and Nov. 11, 2018.

FAA inspectors reviewed the path Santonastaso used when taking off and landing from his backyard and determined that it was extremely hazardous.

When Santonastaso was questioned by the FAA and federal agents he repeatedly made false statements regarding his eligibility to pilot the helicopter and falsely claimed that he was unaware the FAA had revoked his license. Santonastaso also made false statements regarding his applications for a medical certificate, which is required in order to operate an aircraft.

The charging statutes provide for a sentence of five years in prison, up to three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000. 

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