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A Texas man has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for shining a laser pointer at a police helicopter.
Gabriel Soze Ruedas Jr., 25, was arrested in 2012 after the pilot of an Austin police helicopter was forced to delay his landing. A bright laser light reflecting in his cockpit forced him to avert his eyes, reports the Austin American-Statesman.
Although they may seem harmless, laser pointer pranks against aircraft are increasingly resulting in serious criminal charges.
In case you didn't know, intentionally aiming a laser pointer at a helicopter or any other aircraft is prohibited by federal law. Violations can be punished by a fine and up to five years in federal prison.
Federal authorities have been cracking down on those who violate the law. Earlier this year, the FBI introduced a new program that offered a $10,000 reward for those who provide information leading to the arrest of any individual who intentionally aims a laser at an aircraft.
The program, as well as the agency's crackdown on violators, came after a 1,000 percent increase in the number of reported strikes by lasers since the Federal Aviation Administration began tracking them in 2005. According to the FBI, there were almost 4,000 laser strikes against aircraft reported last year -- about 11 per day, with many more incidents likely going unreported.
In Ruedas' case, he was apprehended by police after the pilot of the helicopter at which Ruedas had pointed his laser located Ruedas and a group of men standing on a porch and relayed the information to officers on the ground.
After pleading guilty in federal court to one count of knowingly aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, Ruedas was sentenced to two years in federal prison and three years of supervised release.
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