FAA helped track down drone pilot
ABSECON, N.J. -- A business owner from Absecon, New Jersey is facing criminal mischief charges after allegedly using a drone to drop green dye into neighborhood pools.
It was late June when the general manager of the Quality Inn in Galloway Township, New Jersey noticed their outdoor pool had suddenly turned neon green, and she knew it wasn't algae.
"I saw it totally green and I was like, 'Oh wow what is going on?' So we saw a dye pack in the bottom of the pool, and we didn't know what it was," said Sandra Woolstion, operator and general manager.
They had the pool drained and cleaned, but she said it continued to happen about a dozen times over the course of the summer.
Guests were disappointed each time, and Woolstion said it cost the hotel thousands of dollars.
"The girls are standing here like, 'Oh my God we want to go swim.' Some of them were crying," she said. "I was like, 'Are you kidding me?!' I myself cried. I went into my office and I had a meltdown."
Meanwhile, in Absecon, police got a similar call from a homeowner in August.
"We had a resident who was enjoying time in his pool and saw a drone over top and the drone actually dropped something in his pool and it turned green immediately," Absecon Police Chief James Laughlin said.
The green stuff was sea dye - normally used by search and rescue teams - and it can be damaging to pools.
On Friday police said the drone was spotted over the Quality Inn again, and this time with help from the Federal Aviation Administration the drone was tracked back to a business nearby.
Police arrested the business owner, 45-year-old Patrick Spina IV.
He's now facing multiple counts of criminal mischief.
Spina has been released on a summons. His attorney had no comment, but did say he is cooperating with authorities.
The FAA is also investigating.
In a statement issued Tuesday, a spokesperson said:
"FAA regulations prohibit the unsafe or unauthorized operation of any aircraft. We encourage the public to report unauthorized drone operations to local law enforcement to help discourage this dangerous illegal activity."
They also say drone operators who conduct unsafe operations could face fines of more than $30,000 and have their drone certification suspended or revoked.
Laughlin hopes this case leads to other agencies taking a look at drone laws and regulations regarding who can fly and for what purpose.
Anyone else who thinks they've been a victim should contact their local police department.