U.S. Department of Justice officials say the Georgia prosecutions are likely the first in the nation for illegally piloting a drone without obtaining the required FAA airman’s certification. Federal law requires registration of unmanned aircraft weighing 0.55 pounds or more. Federal prosecutors said the men exceeded that limit and pilots of any unmanned aircraft must have an airman’s certificate when paid to fly the aerial devices.
Prosecutors say George Lo, 27, was serving time in the Telfair State Prison for armed robbery when he masterminded the scheme from behind bars. He acquired a Storm 4 drone then enlisted Toure, from Austell, and his 25-year-old brother, from Dallas, Georgia, to smuggle items.
Toure and Nicholas Lo practiced flying the aerial device and George Lo paid them to deliver the contraband.
Telfair County deputies spotted a suspicious vehicle with no lights parked about 100 yards from the prison about 1:30 a.m. Aug. 26, 2019. Nicholas Lo and Toure were found hiding in a wooded area near the prison. They were carrying a large duffle bag that contained the drone, a video monitor and headset, 14 cell phones, at least 74 grams of tobacco, a digital scale and earbud headphones.
Georgia lawmakers passed legislation in 2019 that gave state judges power to sentence anyone convicted of intentionally flying a drone over prison grounds to at least a year in jail.
“Thanks to the vigilance of our law enforcement partners, this particular scheme was grounded before delivering its payload,” Estes said.