A 45-year-old New Jersey businessman is facing criminal mischief charges after using a drone to drop green dye into area swimming pools.
Patrick Spina IV, owner of Comfort Solutions Heating and Cooling LLC, in Absecon, New Jersey is accused of using a drone to drop dye packs containing Sea Foam Green, a neon green dye normally used by search-and-rescue teams, into a hotel swimming pool as well as other residential pools.
The general manager of the Quality Inn in Galloway Township, Sandra Woolstion, said it happened to their pool about a dozen times over the summer beginning in late June. On June 22, she first noticed that their outdoor pool had suddenly turned neon green, and she knew it wasn't algae.
'I saw it totally green and I was like, 'Oh wow what is going on?’” Woolstion said. “So we saw a dye pack in the bottom of the pool, and we didn't know what it was.”
They’ve had the pool drained and cleaned several times, but it kept happening.
Woolstion said that each time it happened, guests were disappointed. It has cost the hotel thousands of dollars in both remediation efforts as well as cancelled reservations.
Prior to the first time the pool turned neon green, the hotel had the pool redone with a new ceramic finish, which cost more than $10,000. At first, the pool was hit every other week, and then it started happening more frequently. Each time, hotel staff had to drain the pool, scrub off the stains, rinse it off, and fill it back up. Woolstion estimates that all told, it cost the hotel about $20,000 over the course of the summer. And because the pool is now marred by yellow splotches where the dye packets landed, they will also have to pay thousands more to get the pool refinished again.
According to police, the Quality Inn wasn’t the only pool that was hit with the dye. On August 13, Absecon Police received a call from a concerned homeowner who reported suspicious activity involving a drone hovering over their pool. To the homeowner's dismay, a substance was dropped from the drone, turning the pool water an “alarming shade of green.” Following this incident, similar reports emerged from various other locations.
On the morning of September 1, Woolstion walked out to the pool to see that the pool had turned mysteriously green once more. She checked the hotel’s security camera. No one had walked by, and there were no cars in sight. She called Jason Kiamos, a detective at the police department. It had to be drone, she told him.
That day, the Absecon Police Department, in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), New Jersey State Police, and Galloway Township Police, tracked a drone as it flew from the Quality Inn to a nearby business office, Comfort Solutions Heating and Cooling.
There, they apprehended Patrick Spina IV, who was identified as the individual responsible for the ongoing incidents of criminal mischief.
Spina is facing multiple counts of criminal mischief for his involvement in these unlawful acts.
A spokesperson for the FAA issued a statement regarding the incidents: 'FAA regulations prohibit the unsafe or unauthorized operation of any aircraft. We encourage the public to report unauthorized drone operations to local law enforcement to help discourage this dangerous, illegal activity.'
Spina has since been released on a summons pending court proceedings. Police are urging any residents who may have fallen victim to similar activities to come forward and contact their local police agency to aid in ongoing investigations.
Photo credit: Quality Inn Galloway Township, NJ