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Long-serving FAA Employee Sentenced for Malicious Acts

A 26-year-veteran of the Federal Aviation Administration was fined $5,000 and given two years of probation after “willfully and maliciously” cutting communications between Air Traffic Control in Honolulu and aircraft flying in the airspace above the Hawaiian islands.  Joelyn DeCosta, 48, of Honolulu had pled guilty and, as part of a plea agreement, resigned from the FAA and lost her retirement benefits, which were worth more than $500,000.

Ms. DeCosta was sentenced for interfering with the working and use of a communication system operated and controlled by the United States, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1362.

The crime occurred Jan. 4, 2019 and affected a total of 10 aircraft.  Pilots could not hear ATC instructions for two minutes due to the two separate outages she caused.  Ms. DeCosta was an Airway Transportation Systems Specialist for the FAA.   

One of the pilots of an aircraft affected by the outage spoke as a victim at the sentencing.  He emphasized the danger to himself and the 40 passengers onboard his aircraft posed by the communications outage.

“The United States Attorney’s Office takes any threat to the safety of the air travelling public very seriously, and will vigorously enforce federal criminal laws against any federal employee who abuses their position and, in doing so, puts air travelers in harm’s way,” said U.S. Attorney Kenji M. Price.