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Press Release

East Brookfield Man Sentenced for Illegally Operating a Helicopter, Making False Statements and Attempted Witness Tampering

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts
Defendant previously participated in the theft of a helicopter from Norwood Memorial Airport

BOSTON – An East Brookfield man was sentenced today in federal court in Worcester for unlawfully operating a helicopter, making false statements to federal investigators and attempting to tamper with a witness.

Antonio Santonastaso, 62, was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge Timothy S. Hillman to eight months in prison and one year of supervised release. On April 5, 2022, Santonastaso was convicted by a federal jury of one count of serving as an airman without an airman certificate, one count of making false statements to federal agents and one count of attempted witness tampering.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revoked Santonastaso’s license to pilot an aircraft in 2000, after he participated in the theft of a helicopter from Norwood Memorial Airport. Despite being aware of that revocation, Santonastaso operated a Robinson R-22 helicopter – taking off and landing from his backyard – more than 50 times between April 28, 2018, and Nov. 11, 2018.

When questioned by the FAA, Santonastaso made false statements regarding his eligibility to pilot the helicopter. Specifically, Santonastaso falsely claimed that the events that gave rise to the FAA’s revocation of his license were a fabrication. Evidence at trial also established that Santonastaso attempted to corruptly persuade an individual with the intent to hinder, delay and prevent that individual from reporting his illegal helicopter flights to law enforcement.

United States Attorney Rachael S. Rollins and Christopher A. Scharf, Special Agent-in-Charge, Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General, Northeastern Region made the announcement today. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Evan Panich and Danial Bennett of Rollins’ Criminal Division prosecuted the case.

Updated November 18, 2022