Cincinnati men plead guilty to illegally flying drones over Reds, Bengals games

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Two men have pleaded guilty to illegally flying drones over Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds games. They can now face up to one year in prison, one year of supervised release, and a $100,000 fine.

It is illegal to fly drones over stadiums that are designated as temporary flight restriction (TFR) zones during sporting events. The two defendants — Travis Lenhoff and Dailon Dabney — were indicted by a federal grand jury in September 2022 for separate incidents involving Cincinnati Bengals and Cincinnati Reds events.

While Lenhoff, 38, flew his drone to film the Opening Day of the Cincinnati Reds’ 2022 season, 24-year-old Dabney brought his aircraft to an NFL playoff game in January 2022. Dabney not only hovered the drone over the players and portions of the stadium crowd, but he also posted the flight video to social media sites and YouTube.

In addition to committing the misdemeanor crime of violating a TFR, both Dabney and Lenhoff did not register their drones with the FAA, despite such registration being mandatory for any drone that weighs more than .55 pounds. Neither man held a remote pilot certification.

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“It is not worth risking federal criminal charges to illegally fly a drone over events like Reds and Bengals games. Even if there is no intent to harm, this conduct poses a direct risk to the players and the individuals in the stands,” US attorney Kenneth L. Parker stresses. “As we kick off FC Cincinnati and Reds seasons this month, and look to summer concert season, we ask the public to refrain from using drones illegally over events.”

FBI Cincinnati special agent in charge, J. William Rivers added:

Flying a drone over a stadium full of fans is dangerous and illegal without the proper FAA training, licensing, and approved flight plan. We will continue to work with the FAA and local police to investigate these incidents when proper FAA protocols and procedures are not followed.

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