LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Authorities say a Boyle Heights man has been charged with pointing a laser beam at a law enforcement helicopter.

George Sam Elali, 31, is charged with one federal count of aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft, a felony that carries a penalty of up to five years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

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On the evening of Nov. 17, 2013, tactical flight deputies with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department were conducting patrol when their helicopter was struck with the beam of a laser, investigators said.

The pilots reported that their aircraft was struck multiple times with a green laser that illuminated the helicopter’s cockpit.

The deputies said they tracked the source of the laser to a suspect in the backyard of a Los Angeles home. Police on the ground responded to the residence and took Elali into custody on state charges of pointing a laser at an aircraft, prosecutors said.

Elali posted bail and was released from local custody while FBI and sheriff’s department officials continued their investigation. That resulted in an indictment issued Feb. 14 by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles.

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The state charges against Elali have been dismissed.

Elali was scheduled to appear before a federal magistrate judge Thursday for a post-indictment arraignment.

Along with the possible prison term, Elali is subject to civil penalties by the Federal Aviation Administration, prosecutors said.

California consistently leads the nation in reports of laser attacks, officials said. According to the Federal Aviation Administration — which compiles statistics on the number of laser strikes in the U.S. — 3,960 of them were reported nationwide in 2013.

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