A bizarre mystery where several swimming pools near Atlantic City in New Jersey suddenly turned green has apparently been solved.
Patrick Spina IV, 45, was arrested last week when police tracked a drone dropping dye into pools in neighbourhoods in Absecon back to his business. He is facing multiple charges of criminal mischief.
Mr Spina’s peculiar pastime was first spotted in late June by a local hotel manager who noticed the pool used by guests had turned a neon colour.
"I saw it totally green and I was like, ‘Oh wow what is going on?’ So we saw a dye pack in the bottom of the pool and we didn’t know what it was," Sandra Woolstion, general manager of a Quality Inn in Galloway Township, told ABC.
Ms Woolstion said she knew it was not green algae, but even after having the pool drained and cleaned, the dye kept being dropped by the drone bandit at least a dozen times over the summer.
The pool was very expensive to clean every time, she said, costing tens of thousands of dollars in maintenance, and guests were often very disappointed by the closure of the pool.
"The girls are standing here like, ‘Oh my God we want to go swim.’ Some of them were crying," Ms Woolstion said. "I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?!’ I myself cried. I went into my office and I had a meltdown."
Not only were there bills for refurbishments to the pool, but she also took on losses because of pool closures and also had to give her staff overtime pay to monitor the pool.
“It was just more than we bargained for,” she told The New York Times. “I was like, ‘I can’t deal with this anymore. This is crazy. This is costing me too much.’”
Police also started to receive other calls that reported the same incident happening to their home pools.
"We had a resident who was enjoying time in his pool and saw a drone over top and the drone actually dropped something in his pool and it turned green immediately," said Absecon Police Chief James Laughlin.
However, Mr Spina’s drone had now been on too many outings for it to fly under the radar. When the drone holding the green dye was seen hovering over the Quality Inn again last Friday, the police brought in staff from the Federal Aviation Administration to track the drone back to a nearby business, Comfort Solutions Heating and Cooling.
With this information, police arrested the business owner, Mr Spina.
The green pigment turned out to be sea dye that is usually used by search and rescue teams, and which can have a damaging effect on pools.
Police say they are still unsure of Mr Spina’s motive for dyeing the pools.
Meanwhile, the FAA is investigating the crimes and said that people who use drones in an unsafe manner could face up to $30,000 in fines and have their drone license suspended or revoked.
In a statement on Tuesday the agency warned: "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."