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Man Hit With Federal Charges After Saying He Pointed Laser At LaGuardia

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- A man has been hit with federal charges, after allegedly admitting that he pointed a laser pointer at a police helicopter at LaGuardia Airport.

Elehecer "Eddy" Balaguer, 54, surrendered to the FBI and had his initial court appearance Monday morning in the incident on Monday, March 9, according to the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office.

Balaguer claimed responsibility for the incident after his friend, Frank Egan, was arrested in connection with it. Egan appeared in court Friday on assault on a police officer, reckless endangerment and other charges.

But Balaguer came to court with Egan, and admitted having aimed the laser pointer at the police helicopter.

Police said they found a device labeled "Laser 303″ on a refrigerator of his apartment and had said Egan admitted using the laser Monday night, but Egan denied it.

They said two police officers operating a helicopter assigned to the Aviation Unit sustained injuries to their eyes. The pilot of an Air Canada flight also suffered injuries, police said.

Prosecutors on Monday said two other commercial airline pilots were also hit with the beam, and one of them was also temporarily blinded by it.

At Egan's hearing, Balaguer told the court Egan was asleep in a bedroom when he pointed the laser, and said he let Egan take the fall because of his past.

Upon being interviewed by police, Balaguer first admitted that he owned the laser pointer, but denied knowing who pointed it at the airplanes. But he later admitted that he had been the one to point the laser and admitted that he had lied to the NYPD, prosecutors said.

"As charged, Elehecer Balaguer's actions were simple but potentially disastrous: pointing a powerful laser at airplanes carrying hundreds of people and then at a police helicopter," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a news release. "In fact these actions had dire consequences that could have been worse yet, including impairing and damaging the vision of pilots with the possibility of creating real danger to the aircraft."

"Pointing a laser pointer at the operator of an aircraft is an irresponsible act that poses a real and immediate danger," police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in the release. "It is important that the public understands that the intentional misuse of this device has the potential to create a devastating outcome and is against the law."

Balaguer is charged with one count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, and faces up to five years in prison.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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