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Man Faces Up To 5 Years In Federal Prison For Aiming Laser Pointer At Helicopter

A device with a high-powered, green laser (Photo by FastLizard4 via the Creative Commons on Flickr)
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A Boyle Heights man is in federal court this afternoon for directing his laser pointer at an L.A. County Sheriff's Dept.'s helicopter.

George Sam Elali, 31, allegedly shot his green-hued laser pointer multiple times at the aircraft that was patrolling on Nov. 17, 2013, according to a press release from the FBI. The deputies tracked down the suspect and sent out LAPD officers to arrest the man, who was found in the backyard of a house. He was named in a grand jury indictment on Feb. 14 and is scheduled to be arraigned in court today in downtown.

Elali is charged with one count of aiming the beam of a laser at an aircraft, which is a felony offense. If convicted, he could face up to five years in federal prison. He could also be looking at civil penalties from the Federal Aviation Administration. However, the state charges against Elali were dropped.

What officials call "lasing" (the act of aiming laser pointers) is extremely dangerous for pilots, since they could be temporarily blinded and disoriented while flying the aircrafts, reported the L.A. Times.

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The FBI has been cracking down on people aiming laser pointers at aircrafts since they announced their new initiative in February, according to an FBI press release. It's a two-month program to educate folks in the cities with the most lasing incidences surrounding 12 specific FBI offices through educational billboards and PSAs, reported the Times. To sweeten the incentives to get folks to come forward with information about the culprits, the FBI is offering rewards of up to $10,000.

“The risk associated with illegal and inappropriate laser illuminations is unacceptable,” Lee Moak, president of the Air Line Pilots Assn. International, told the Times. “Pointing lasers at aircraft in flight poses a serious safety risk to the traveling public.”