AUSTIN, Texas -- FBI agents arrested Grabriel Soza Ruedas, Jr., 25, in Austin on Thursday for allegedly pointing a laser at an aircraft flying overhead, according to a press release from the United States Attorney's Office.
It is considered a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft, according to a reform act that President Obama signed in Feb. 2012. On Wednesday, federal officials filed a criminal complaint charging Ruedas with violating that provision.
The complaint alleges that on Feb. 15, 2014, Ruedas knowingly aimed the beam of a laser pointer multiple times at an APD helicopter that was about to land at the Austin airport.
"Laser strikes can pose serious risks to flight crews, passengers, and even individuals on the ground. They are a serious public safety hazard and will be treated as such by law enforcement officials," United States Attorney Robert Pitman said.
Upon conviction, Ruedas faces up to five years in federal prison and a maximum $250,000 fine.
"Shining a laser at aircraft can temporarily blind a pilot which could result in the loss of aircraft control and human life. This case should serve as a warning to others who engage in this dangerous criminal activity. The FBI will continue to investigate and pursue prosecution of offenders who threaten aviation safety," Christopher Combs, FBI special agent in charge, said.
This indictment resulted from an investigation conducted by agents with the FBI together with APD and the Texas Attorney General's Office. Assistant United States Attorney Gregg Sofer is prosecuting this case on behalf of the Government.
"It's a maximum of five years, the fine, and then there's a potential for supervised release if he does ultimately get a prison sentence but right now we're at the very initial stages," said Ashley Hoff, division chief for the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Ruedas is scheduled to make his initial appearance at 2:00 p.m. Thursday in Austin before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin.