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Man accused of impersonating CIA agent operates drone cameras for NY National Guard

An MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft performs aerial maneuvers over Creech Air Force Base, NV., June 25, 2015. (Senior Airman Cory D. Payne/U.S. Air Force)

A Cicero man who police have accused of impersonating a CIA agent to impress a woman works for the New York Air National Guard as a drone camera operator, according to an Air National Guard spokesman and an Air Force website.

Ryan R. Houghtalen, 25, was charged with second-degree impersonation of a public servant, a misdemeanor.

Houghtalen told the woman he met at church her life was in danger because he was a CIA agent and that they were both targets of ISIS, according to court documents.

Houghtalen enlisted with the NY National Guard in January 2012 and is a staff sergeant with the 174th Attack Wing, based at Hancock Field, said Eric Durr, a guard spokesman.

Houghtalen serves as a sensor operator on the MQ-9, the Reaper, Durr said. He said could not comment on a sensor operator’s responsibilities.

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A sensor operator runs the camera on a drone, according to the Air Force’s description.

The 174th Attack Wing pilots the Reaper drones on combat and surveillance missions overseas. The base is also a maintenance and training facility for the squadron of drones. It was the first Air National Guard base to operate the drones.

Sensor operators do not have to have prior flight experience, must complete a background check, go through about 10 weeks of basic military training and must be between 17 and 39 years old, according to the Air Force’s website.

“Utilizing state-of-the-art equipment, these highly trained experts perform surveillance and reconnaissance and provide close air support and real-time battle damage assessment, playing a vital role in ensuring our missions succeed,” it reads.

Though Durr could not speak specifically about Houghtalen’s case, Durr said a guard member convicted of a crime in civilian court can face punishment by the guard. Durr said, among other possible punishments, a person could be fined or a person’s rank reduced.

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© 2019 Syracuse Media Group, N.Y.

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