MELVILLE, N.Y. _ The FBI arrested a Long Island man early Wednesday on charges of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, in the first federal prosecution of its kind in the region, an arrest made possible after the suspect blurted out a confession, officials said.
Angel Rivas, 33, of Shirley, N.Y., was set for arraignment Wednesday at U.S. District Court in Central Islip, N.Y., on the charge, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 5 years, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Officials said Rivas pointed the laser at two aircraft on Aug. 21. He shined a green laser beam at the cockpit of a Sun Country Airlines chartered Boeing 737 headed for Kennedy Airport as it passed over Suffolk County at 12,000 feet, records say.
Later the same day he pointed a green laser beam at a Suffolk County police helicopter that was sent out to investigate the jet incident, court records show.
The police helicopter pinpointed the source of the beam, Angel Rivas' home, records say. A patrol officer was sent to the house that day, but Rivas denied the allegation and investigators had no evidence to back up an arrest, so no action was taken against him, records show.
However, earlier this month, the same Suffolk officer, Matthew Dewitt, was sent to handle a disturbance at a nearby convenience store and when he responded he saw Rivas there.
Rivas promptly blurted out a confession Dewitt, saying "he had shined the laser beam at the aircraft," officials said. The officer immediately read Rivas his Miranda rights and arrested him, officials said.
The FBI office that encompasses New York City, Westchester, Suffolk and Nassau counties investigated 72 such laser incidents involving aircraft in 2012, and this is the first arrest it has made, officials said.
Rivas could not be reached for comment because he was in custody, and court papers did not list an attorney for him.