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WORCESTER — A federal jury in Worcester has convicted an East Brookfield man of illegally flying a helicopter around his property and lying to the Federal Aviation Administration.
Antonio Santonastaso, who authorities say once took part in a helicopter flight at a Norwood airport, was sentenced Tuesday after a three-day trial on three of the four counts he was charged with confronted, according to the records.
Continued: FAA ends helicopter rides
A jury found Santonastaso, 62, guilty of one count of serving as an airman without an airman’s certificate, one count of making false statements to federal agents and one count of attempted bribery of witness. He acquitted him of one count of making false statements to other agencies.
According to a press release from U.S. Attorney Rachael S. Rollins’ office, Santonastaso flew a Robinson R-22 helicopter – taking off and landing from his backyard – more than 50 times between April 28, 2018 and November 11, 2018, despite the no pilot license.
Santonastaso had lost his license in 2000 after participating in a helicopter flight at Norwood Memorial Airport, authorities said, but when questioned about it by the FAA, “made false statements regarding his eligibility to fly the helicopter”.
“Specifically, Santonastaso falsely asserted that the events that resulted in the revocation of his license by the FAA were a fabrication,” authorities wrote. “Evidence at trial also established that Santonastaso attempted to bribe an individual with the intent to obstruct, delay and prevent that individual from reporting his illegal helicopter flights to law enforcement.”
The sentence could be 20 years
According to Rollins’ office, Santonastaso, who is due to be sentenced Oct. 5, faces up to 20 years in prison, up to three years of probation and a $250,000 fine.
“Mr. Santonastaso has shown a flagrant disregard of FAA rules and regulations by operating a helicopter out of his yard without a license on numerous occasions,” Rollins said in a statement. did, he put himself, his community and the general public on the ground in danger.
“My office will continue its work to detect and hold accountable individuals who violate federal laws and regulations, as well as those who make false statements to federal investigators and attempt to tamper with witnesses.”
Rollins thanked the U.S. Northeast Department of Transportation Inspector General’s office for their work.
Joseph Harris, the special agent in charge of that department, said in the statement that the case demonstrates that he “will continue to work with our law enforcement and prosecution partners to support the security and integrity of the country’s airspace”.
The case is being prosecuted by Assistant US Attorneys Evan Panich and Danial Bennett.
This article originally appeared on Telegram & Gazette: East Brookfield’s Antonio Santonastaso found guilty of illegally flying helicopter, lying to FAA
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