EAST BROOKFIELD (CBS) – An East Brookfield man is facing federal charges after investigators say he was illegally flying a helicopter in and out of his backyard for months.

Antonio Santonastaso, 59, will be arraigned Thursday afternoon in federal court in Worcester.

“We were nervous because he was flying low and fast,” said one neighbor.

Antonio Santonastaso after his arrest in 2000. (WBZ-TV file image)

He was charged and convicted of stealing a helicopter from Norwood Airport in May of 2000 and lost his license to fly.

The helicopter Antonio Santonastaso was charged with stealing in 2000. (WBZ-TV file image)

Prosecutors say he bought a used helicopter in Texas in February 2018. Three weeks later, a neighbor called investigators saying Santonastaso was flying the copter in and out of his backyard, close to the neighbor’s home.

Several neighbors began taking photos and videos of the flights as the Federal Aviation Administration began its probe.

Neighbor Karl Bjorklund said, “If anything went wrong, I don’t know where he’s going to go with it. He’s going to come over here or over there … I don’t know. It’s was loud, very noisy.

Antonio Santonastaso is accused of flying this helicopter out of his backyard in East Brookfield. (Courtesy image)

They concluded that Santonastaso took more than 50 flights between April 28, 2018 and November 11, 2018.

“When questioned by the FAA and federal agents, Santonastaso repeatedly made false statements regarding his eligibility to pilot the helicopter,” the U.S. Attorney said in a statement.

“Among other things, Santonastaso falsely claimed to have not learned that the FAA had revoked his license, and made false statements regarding his applications for a medical certificate, which is required in order to operate an aircraft. “

He’s now charged with one count of serving as an airman without an airman certificate and one count of making false statements to federal agents.

If convicted he faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

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