A Hubbard man who flashed a laser pen at a helicopter could go to prison for eight years if he violates terms of his probation.

That was the warning issued by Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Ray Rice as he sentenced 47-year-old Nicholas Vecchiarelli, who earlier pleaded guilty to one count of interfering with aircraft.

Judge Rice placed Vecchiarelli on probation for five years and fined him $1,000 for aiming a green laser light at a helicopter being used by a camera crew from a Cleveland television station last fall.

Officers investigating the complaint found Vecchiarelli pacing in his driveway with a police scanner and a green laser pointer. Police say Vecchiarelli confessed.

As part of his sentence, Vecchiarelli must also perform 200 hours of community service and submit a written apology to his victims. He also must obey an 11 p.m. curfew and stay out of liquor establishments.

In a similar case decided in May, a federal judge placed 34-year old Travis Krzysztofiak of Boardman on three years probation for aiming the beam of a laser pointer at a medical helicopter as it approached Akron Children's Hospital in Boardman on June 15 of last year.

Krzysztofiak was convicted of violating a provision of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 that makes it a federal offense to shine a laser pointer at an aircraft or it's flight path.

The statute was enacted in response to a growing number of incidents of pilots being distracted or even temporarily blinded by laser beams.