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FAA fines Philadelphia drone pilot and Youtuber $184,500

FAA fines Philadelphia drone pilot and Youtuber $184,500

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has fined drone pilot Mikey from Philadelphia, better known as Youtube comedian PhillydroneLife, for $184,500 $182,004 in proposed civil penalties for the drone videos he live-streamed to Youtube. Yes, you read that correctly, $182,004 in fines.

Update: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the fines added up to $184,500. The exact amount is $182,004.00
Update 2: An earlier version of this article had Mikey’s name misspelled. It’s Mikey. Not Mickey.
Update 3: Mikey’s own explanation of the events. See the Youtube video below.
Update 4: Explanation as to why the FAA may have picked the live-streamed videos only. See the video below.

Editor’s note: DroneXL does not condone or support unsafe drone flying. All pilots should follow the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) drone regulations at all times when flying in the U.S. As I pointed out in the article, I happen to know Mikey because we were on the same drone show once. I do not have access to all the information in this case to assess Mikey’s drone flights. It is a very unfortunate situation, that will hopefully get resolved in a reasonable way.

FAA fines drone pilot and Youtuber $182,004

Early November, drone pilot Mikey received 123 infractions from the FAA. Each letter fining him for $1,500 for various violations. The total amount in civil penalties adds up to a staggering $182,004.

The violations relate to drone videos that were live-streamed to YouTube over the period from December 2019 to August of this year. Other drone videos on the same PhillydroneLife Youtube channel were not penalized.

The FAA has issued fines for various infractions such as flying over 400 feet, reckless flying, flying in the rain, fog, and in strong winds. Mikey explains the situation in a video on OriginaldoBo’s Youtube channel, that I’ll show below.

Since the videos are shown on Mikey’s PhillydroneLife monetized Youtube channel, the FAA seems to have penalized Mikey as if he were a Part 107 pilot, even though he doesn’t actually have a Part 107 certificate, Mikey considers himself a recreational drone pilot who posts his videos as a self-proclaimed comedian on Youtube.

Initial conversations with lawyers have indicated that he will need $10,000 to get any lawyer to look at this case. However, to actually fight the FAA in court the legal fees may reach as high as $50,000 to $100,000. Mikey is in no position to pay such high legal bills, nor does his PhillydroneLife channel bring in that kind of money.

A few questions that come to mind in this case are, why did the FAA go after Mikey when they are so many similar videos out there? Why did the FAA only focus on the live-streamed videos? Is this part of a larger initiative from the FAA to crack down on drone enthusiasts who posts their videos online, in which case many more drone pilots might be affected by the outcome of this case.

Mikey has to respond to the FAA letters before or on December 5th, 2020, so there’s not a lot of time left for him to fight these 123 infractions and the total of $182,004 in proposed FAA fines.

https://youtu.be/YFMVuZBY1Zw?t=2944

Here’s Mikey’s own explanation.

If you want to help Mikey in his fight with the FAA you can:

  • Consider making a donation to Mikey’s Paypal account (https://www.paypal.me/PhillyDroneLife).
  • Use the links in the description on the PhillydroneLife channel to help Mikey generate more income.
  • Share this story with your friends and fellow drone pilots to make them aware of this situation.

Over time, I have gotten to know Mikey as a colorful but friendly drone pilot who turned to drones to help him get his life back on track. The staggering amount of $182,004 in proposed FAA penalties has caused plenty of stress for him and his family as you can imagine. And while I am no lawyer and do not have all the details (I did not watch all Mikey’s videos, nor did I read all the FAA letters), a total of $182,004 in fines seems to be over the top. Hopefully, Mikey will be able to work with the FAA to bring that number down and come to some kind of resolution.

Note: the FAA letters and infractions have been seen by people in the drone community and are said to be legit.

Curious to hear your thoughts on this situation. Please share them in the comments below.

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Haye Kesteloo

85 comments

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  • The live streams, sadly, are proof of doing all those things, like above 400’, wreck less flying etc., where a photo or video can be edited, and harder to prove it was actually done, so if he live streamed it, there was no doubt it actually happened. I don’t agree with it, at all, but that’s probably the case?

      • seems like the top video are now also removed? (couldn’t stand the reality and risk that people would see his action, now he are on the run for sympathy)

    • Mindblowing that 4500 people are subscribed and supporting his acts.(fools)
      He doesn’t give a flying fuxx literally, about anything.. and the more idiot things he did with his drones the more people likely subscribed. (hope these subscribers can see they are the factor that certainly also elevating his behavior to be more and more extreme and cross more and more lines.
      and even when other aircraft are in the air like helis, around him. he doesn’t gives a flying fucx.
      Sure let FAA made an example of him, as you can bet he are the one hurting the whole multirotor hobby segment.
      and the dude that are trying to excuse his actions with paramotors (stupid comparence) a world of difference, as stupidity with paramotors can and often will kill you.
      This dude is having a blAST IN THE CHASR FOR COINS AND ON OTHER PEOPLES ACCOUNT.

    • How is that “sadly” at all? Quite the contrary, the standards of legal proceedings are archaic and need revamped so anyone who has video of themselves breaking the law, need not require that it be a live stream. This is not the standard for other areas of proof of crime, more of a logistics issue as far as citing when the event took place.

      I counter that the event was illegal whenever it took place and the evidence is that there are multiple elements proving this did not happen a decade ago, lol.

      People have been getting away with breaking the law due to a loophole, a fundamental flaw in the legal process and yet they practically had to know they were breaking the law, and yet, ignorance of the law is no excuse either.

  • So you’re saying he broke the rules, is monetizing from flying his drone, and now wants help?…. Yeah I don’t think so.

  • I have zero sympathy for this clown. The FAA’s drone rules are very straight forward. If he didn’t know what are, that screams volumes about his comprehension ability.

    This dude should not own a drone. Put him in the same category at the bozo that his the LAPD chopper.

    Don’t contribute to his fund drive. Let him suffer.

        • AL, would you be saying the same thing if he was speeding in his car and killed someone? Rules are in place for a reason and the FAA rules are simple, same with most of the aviation tulles around the world. His background story should not have anything to do with this, nor would it be taken into account in the courts.

      • The fine might seem excessive but how many times must one be reminded of the law? Frankly he should have been prosecuted for a repeat offense after say the first 5 times, but some people don’t learn.

        THINK about what it says to society if we just let everyone off after dozens of the same offense and warnings?

        Trust me, you would not like to live in that world.

  • Mickey is facing serious civil fines and should spend more time talking to a pro bono lawyer and less time talking to “influencers” YouTube. In fact, publicly disparaging the FAA is probably not a smart move for Mickey at this juncture. An actual attorney once told me that armchair lawyers aren’t fit to defend armchairs. Nobody “deserves” to face $182K in fines. The FAA is going to have to come to a very public settlement with someone who is on public assistance and a disability.

  • Guy is a mental midget. I along with many others warned him year that he continued with his antics he was going to get the attention of the FAA. Looks like he finally got it.

  • He will be ok. They have to Prove there case.
    ” It wasn’t me”
    They say FAA can’t use YOUTUBE VIDEOS to prove you was Guilty.
    We will see how this will Turn out.

  • At first I was going to feel sorry for him until I heard him start talking. Then I went to his YouTube channel and that made it worse. So 184k is excessive but he needs to pay something.

  • If he was using the drone in furtherance of his business then he should have gotten his license. That’s basic. He had to have known that.
    Maybe if he had taken the time to learn and get his license he wouldn’t have done all the stupid things he was cited for.

  • Definitely his fault. 123 letters were sent and all ignored? What was he expecting? For a normal drone enthusiast, 1 letter from the FAA is enough to rattle someone, 2 can even lead to quiting. But 123? He was definitely playing with the FAA and deserves all the fines.

  • “considers himself a recreational drone pilot”? Not his decision to make. His activities are regulated by the FAA and he has clearly been flying in a manner that requires a part 107 license (ie. in the furtherance of a business). It’s very clear that he intends to make money off his YouTube videos and his drone flights further that goal. If I drive around delivering pizza without a driver’s license and run a red light should I tell the cop, “but I’m a recreational driver?”

    Bottom line, his activities make life much harder for those of us who took the time, money, and effort to get a 107 certificate and follow the rules. I do hope that he can work with the FAA and face a fine that will hurt enough to make him want to follow the rules going forward, but not devastate him and his family financially.

    • Actually, ur right to drive YOUR car on a public road for personal readons is a constitutional right and licensing to do so is unconstitutional. The phrase ” driver ” by legal definition refers to a person using a motor vehicle for commercial purpose, as in ur scenario.

      • No. You can drive your car on your private property and nowhere else without a license to do so.

        This is true of cars, drones, and just about anything else. Anywhere that is not your own property, your rights only include doing what the property owner – in this case society, decides you can do and under what terms.

        You are provided the right to travel, but not to drive on public roads without meeting the conditions society has imposed.

  • Wow, I watched one video, and he: (1) flew to 1,100 feet, (2) flew over traffic, (3) flew at night, (4) ignored repeated warning about aircraft in the area. Moreover, if he is Chanel is monetized, then I’m sorry he needs a 107 license.

    He just makes the rest of us look bad, and is the reason why the hobby is getting more and more restricted. The guy is an idiot and shouldn’t be flying. Is the fine excessive? Probably. But hey, maybe he can negotiate that down in a plea deal if he agrees never to operate a drone again.

  • Why would I want to support someone that gives a bad name to the hobby and industry? Are you kidding me??? He broke the law. Plain and simple. He gave a bad name to anyone that flies drone and is causing increased scrutiny to the entire drone industry. He coudl bring additional restrictive legislation upon the industry. It is him how should be begging for forgiveness and donating to legal teams fighting undue legislation against the industry. You are NUTS asking for us to donate to him. What a joke.

  • He, as a drone user, is well aware of the regulations regarding such use. He chose not to adhere to laws established by the FAA, in a conscious decision. He has established that he feels, he is above the law.

    There is absolutely no sympathy from the professionally licensed drone pilots. We take things seriously and actually are true professionals in this industry.

    Although the FAA has been lackluster in enforcement to say the least. They need to step up their game and enforce the laws they have set forth. Lack of enforcement, provides no credibility to the mandated laws.

  • And what of those of us enthusiasts who followed “the rules” for years before there were “rules” only to be left with paper weight copters? In before, “just go fly it dude!”: The city I reside in is blanketed under Class D airspace, surrounded by agricultural land on all sides and numerous dirt “airstrips”, and has a heliport above the hospital at City center, not to mention many bass ackwards citizens who believe every drone is a flying camera and every enthusiast pilot a pervert and have no compunction about calling cops if said pilot(s) are practicing hovering below yard fence height. Many forgo the cops and microwave (gun: plenty of how to videos ensure this practice) our machines down without warning. Where’s the FAA when this happens? Knocking ANY vehicle in flight is a federal offense. You’d think rural areas would be a safe haven. Think again.
    So what does FAA expect in a city of thousands or even millions? FAA should do the right thing and fine itself the hell out of our hobby. Or, begin with massive incentives for those who follow their “rules”.

    • It’s not the city of millions, the person that expects privacy on their on property or The FAA. It’s the Person in control of the craft. Dosent matter if it’s a drone, helicopter, or airplane. You are responsible for Your on actions. Not just in this case, but in general now, people want to blame another for their screw up.

    • Here’s a crazy thought: I wouldn’t buy a jetski if I didn’t live close to the water.

      Anyone who wants to fly a drone in the wide open unrestricted space of their own property, within the FAA height restrictions, can buy appropriate property, same as if you were raising cattle, growing crops, dirt bike racing or whatever else you want to do with your life.

  • THIS guy IS the problem . Just listening to him he has issues, but obviously does not keep up with the happenings in the drone world. Pilots like him are what is causing all the legit pilots headaches. He deserves the headache!

    I hope the final number is heafty enough that he can’t afford to fly anymore, and that others who are just as bad as him open thier eyes

    Defending or supporting him makes you part of the problem also.

  • Flagrant disregard for laws, rules, personal property, and life. I love flying Fpv race drones. Idiots like this make it bad for everybody. He deserves jail time. Who does this guy think he is?

  • This guy is a menace and dangerous. This is the bad apple that makes all law abiding recreational and part 107 flyers looked down upon. Flyers like this one is the reason the FAA is moving to remote ID.

  • I have been responsibly in the R/C modeling hobby for over 20 years. Thanks to idiots like this, the FAA has lumped the R/C community in with the “Drone” community and we are fighting to keep flying fields for our hobby. Maybe I’ll sue him as well.

  • It’s the disregard and contempt demonstrated by others like this moron that have resulted in a fantastic hobby being vilified and ultimately regulated by the FAA. It would be great if they made an example of him and he spends some time behind bars. There is no place in the hobby for endangering people and property with concern for the consequences.

  • It sounds like he did it to himself. I fly drones and also do not have a part 107 but I do not post my flights on YouTube and I do stay at 400ft and below. You don’t have to fallow all the FAA rules but you do have to be smart when you choose not to.
    Guys like this is why the FAA wants to rip this hobby from all of us.

  • He was in violation of several and I mean several FAA rules..flying over 400ft really! Would love to know all the airspace he violated and put peoples lives at danger….thats probably going to be his hardest to fight. Just because you can operate a drone doesn’t mean you should be flying. The “airspace” is a dangerous place if you don’t know the rules

  • I’m a fellow Philadelphia flyer and this is no surprise. Mikey has pushed the envelope of what is “right” or “safe” within the local flying community. His regular videos definitely make you question his choices and cringe at the flights (over downtown Philadelphia with cars and people below).
    He has regularly tried to rope in other local pilots like Billy Kyle to lend their support of his channel and has been featured by some local media outlets because of his life story and how he turned to drones.

    As someone who lives and flies in Philadelphia I think this is a good thing – we all need to follow the rules and err on the side of safety. Everyone should know that drones and airspace regulation is a hot topic right now with enthusiasts and hobbyists being scapegoated in an attempt to commercialize the airspace and turn it over to large corporations like FedEx, Amazon, etc

    Mikey deserves the fines and he needs to stop putting the larger hobby community at risk!

  • I have absolutely ZERO sympathy for drone pilots that don’t take the rules seriously.
    It’s not a video game. Breaking the rules can take down an aircraft and cost the lives of innocent people. You may think $180,000 is high, but what is the cost of a human life?
    This guy obviously put his you tube channel above human life. He just got lucky this time and didn’t get someone killed. He makes money with his drone but breaks the rules and doesn’t have the right license.
    If this guy has to take the fall so others get the message, so be it.
    I make sure my drone pilot is licensed and insured and clears the addresses I need him to shoot before accepting the gig.
    But others skirt the rules and that puts Lives in danger. Can you imagine if you were responsible for bringing down a plane full of people? It’s just NOT worth it for You Tube hits. Do it by the rules or don’t do it at all. Or pay the fines!

  • First off, the fast requires only a registration for a drone weighing more than 249 grams. On this are the guidelines for flight, none of which refer to rain, fog or any other acts of nature as being no fly scenarios.
    Second, they make waterproof drones.
    Third, I tune my fpv quads to a point that 20mph winds will move it only about 2 or 3 inches with no gps.
    The only real arguement is the 400 ft ceiling, that of which a video can be altered to appear 400 ft high.
    What I’ve done here is show u that a lawyer is not always neccessary as u can go to your local library or DA’s office and put ur nose in the law books pertaining to ur case and argue it urself. It’s called Pro Se representation. I fought criminal contempt felony that way and won and my custody battle for my 4 kids with ex wife. I now have full custody she get supervised visits.
    I did it all alone with about 14 books. It’s very hard and time consuming, but so is working to pay down 182k, or even 10k to an attorney that will likely have u cop to a stiff fine anyway.
    R. J. P.

  • Definitely an unsafe pilot, but $180k is excessive and unreasonable. If the FAA makes the fines reasonable, they can fine more people that are breaking these simple rules and probably more effectively discourage people from flying unsafe. Tough though since the operator clearly was unsafe.

  • If he obtains any money for the drone footage he is in violation. He can take the course and get licensed to avoid any more issues. He should be familiar with rules and regulations. Cannot fly in rain/fog- other small aircraft use different fly patterns that he could be infringing upon without knowing causing danger in the air and on the ground. He is not allowed to fly above people without proper waiver. He is not allowed in some restricted airspace. He might have been flying in temporary restricted airspace. If he had taken the licenses classes/test he would have access and knowledge of what to check before he flies.

  • After reading the article I have to say I have zero sympathy for this person. Personally I am a Part 107 holder and before my 107 I did research the Recreation flyer rules. I also hold my UK Flyer and Operator license as well. For this complete jerk I have to go back to my cop days, ignorance of the law is no defense of the law.

    Yes the fines are heavy but he obviously did not care about the consequences when he was flying and when he disregard the 123 letters from the FAA. He obviously did not care when he was making money on his YouTube channel (we call this evidence in legal terms) and he did not seem to care that his behavior is reckless since he persisted with it. You can’t argue if your driving a car and have 123 moving violations and no license. You don’t get to reclassify a car as a lawn mower or farm equipment because you are in the wrong.

    This idiots poor decisions for financial gain and showing off affects those of us that are responsible and licensed as well as those that Are real responsible recreational flyers. I can’t feel bad for him because plain and simple he is a criminal. We all know the FAA regulates us and he didn’t seem to care so he can enjoy the end result. I hate to sound cruel but why should anyone help raise money for an irresponsible person that obviously makes really poor choices. Maybe being forced to take responsibility and be accountable for his actions will help him grow up. I will make a quick guess that he probably has a decent criminal background which adds to his disregard here and his believe that the FAA doesn’t have any real authority. Unfortunately you can’t change a convict and blaming the FAA for his poor choices is his problem as is the extensive nature of the fines.

  • Why the f#*#^ would I help a criminal who has endangered the public with reckless flying and contributed to the negative public impression of drone operators? I play by the rules! I can’t believe anyone would suggest a fundraiser! Shame on DroneXL!!

  • As an Airline Transport Pilot, Flight Instructor and Drone Pilot myself, I say the FAA Hang him. He is bad for the community and are will be the cause of further restrictions. Besides I don’t want to die because of his stupidity or those he inspires to do the same.

  • When he said he thought that by checking the “I take full responsibility….” box on the DJI app while in Class B airspace WITHOUT CLEARANCE and it was OK to fly, I knew this guy was a weasel. Projecting his own lack of responsibility, lack of self-discipline, and sophomoric ambitions onto an app is classic. “It’s the app’s fault, officer”.

    And then in an attempt to shift blame onto the FAA, he goes on to say “What? Did I kill somebody??” To that, I say that before just before he kills someone, he didn’t kill someone. As if to say “Before I used heroin, I didn’t use heroin”. This guy is a serious con artist who got his comeuppance and the only way he gets exonerated is to recruit stupid/gullible people to listen to him.

  • They only can prosecute the live stream because the other ones he can just claim it wasn’t him. Live stream has a digital fingerprint to his actual use rather than just an uploaded copy of something.

  • No help coming from this direction. He brought all of this on himself with his own actions and attitude. Guess he gets to be the one to be used as an example to warn others. There has to be a lid placed on this growing idiotic drone operation. If the owner/operators wont police themselves, then I guess they need the big stick alongside the head. Sorry his family has to suffer with him but he should have thought about that.

  • Good for the FAA, I’m a professional pilot, and licensed drone pilot. This guy was being stupid and now is going to pay the price, whatever that ends up being.
    Drones are part of aviation, and there are rules that needs to be adhered to to keep people safe. Hopefully we will see more heavy fines imposed for foolish behavior.

  • I wouldn’t want fined like him BUT I don’t illegally fly my drones either. His ranting makes me think he needs to seek help.
    He brought it on himself.
    Kids don’t do this follow the Rules or suffer the consequences

  • Why him? It had to be somebody so why not him. I have been in the DC area for years. Here is how it goes.

    There are lots of FAA employees. It is the end of the year. They have to justify their budget. So, sitting around the coffee pot, a guy happens to see Micky in a video. “Hey, man, doesn’t that look like he is over 400 feet? “.

    ” Yep, looks that way to me. Let’s check out some more of his videos…. Wow.. check this out!”.

    By the end of the day they have their man and go out to the local watering hole and have a few beers.

    That’s how it goes.

  • Is there a go-fund me for Mikey? They let Antifa burn down businesses without any penalty and go after a poor innocent kid with a toy.

  • Nope… no sympathy. Flying anything in the NAS requires compliance with the rules. Ignorance of the rules is not an excuse.

  • The only reason he is getting charged, is he put them on YouTube. Lots of people, break the rules all the time. In the small number of his videos of his I watched, I didn’t see anything unsafe. Maybe he can get trump to pardon him, before he leaves office!

  • He’s probably a “Sovereign Citizen” and thinks that since there’s nothing in the Magna Carta that prohibits what he did, then he did no wrong.

  • It took too long for this to happen.

    When are these selfish children (man-child in some cases) going to learn that you don’t have the right to force your toys into any area that is not either:

    A) You own property
    B) Property where you have expressed consent

    If you don’t respect property rights, you deserve worse than a fine. Fly your drone on your property and have fun doing it.

  • Your support for Mikey is misplaced. He’s an idiot and deserves the punishment levied by the FAA. If you make money using a drone (like a monetized YouTube channel, DUH!) you need a Part 107 certificate. Only an ambulance chasing lawyer will touch his case.

  • He suggests a schedule of graduated fines:

    1st: $20
    2nd: $40
    3rd: $60
    4th: $80
    5th: $100

    After the 123rd violation, he would owe $152,520. It would be especially sweet if the FAA grants him precisely what he asks for …

  • You can’t be considered a “drone enthusiast” if you post your drone videos on social media and make money from them.

    You have to have a Part 107 license if you fly a drone and post videos to a monetized channel. That’s the FAAs rule.

    If you think you can get away with it then think again. The FAA has been c a king down hard on these “enthusiast” drone flights that are monetized.

  • My problem with this is that MIKEY NEVER SCREWED UP. I watched a bunch of his videos and yeah he is definitely a bit crazy, but he never crashed, never hit any other aircraft, never hit any buildings, and never fell out of the sky and hit any people. So whats the crime again? Hes being charged for flying a drone, simple as that. One could argue that drone laws arent perfectly clear, and some are borderline stupid. Fact is that Mikey never hit anything or anyone with any of his drones and I call BULLSHIT on this whole charade by the FAA to make an example of him to make other drone users fearful to even fly. Drones are recreational hobbyist aircraft and are safe to fly when operated within reason. This is a case of being charged before any crime has even been commited.

  • On the fact he is being violated on the part 107 despite being a part 107 certificate holder, is basically what they said they would do back in 2014 when the FAA published a memo called the “FAA’s interpretation to the special rules for model aircraft under the previous section 336 to the 2012 FMRA or USPL 112-95. Before you chime in, I am more than aware that 336 and the USPL 112-95 has been replaced by section 44809 of the USPL 115-254 which the title is now rules for limited recreational flyers. Albeit ,the memo references old information of the 336, as well as the fact that Ch 14 CFR Part 107 did not exist, the intent is still there. Basically, they said at that time anyone who did not fall under the five provisions of the 336 would in fact be in violation for various regulations under 14 CFR Part 91. They also said they would apply the relevant sections to any future rulemaking concerning civil sUAS, which we all know is the Part 107. That memo set the stage for the FAA’s intent that any unsafe operations would be in fact violations of Part 107 in the future.

    If we go back in time and recall the 336, it said the FAA could not promulgate any future rulemaking concerning model aircraft as long it fell under its five provisions. The intent of congress at the time was that if you did not fall under the 336 you in fact were subject to the relevant regulations at the time which would have been the Part 91 rules, traditionally set for manned aircraft operations, where anything outside 336 operations had to be under part 91 with an exemption allowed under the section 333 of the prior act. Now this provision is a little more tighter as the FAA is not barred across the board to regulate what used to the generic “hobbyist rules.” Now they can with the only exception that they can’t force limited recreational flyers to be certificated, like the civil sUAS operator. This is why in nutshell that even though his intent was to be a limited recreational flyer, he is in fact a civil sUAS flyer under part 107 without an RPIC and therefore is being violated under those regulations.

  • […] Obtaining an FAA part 107 license helps you understand the dos and don’ts of piloting a drone in a safe manner. FAA fines can be huge and add up quickly since they are about $1,500 per infraction, so if you have 10 photos or videos, that’s a $15,000 fine. A YouTuber received a $180K fine for over 100 videos he posted online. Read more here. […]

  • I just passed the Part 107 exam so I’m still thinking like the test… This guy has four of the five harmful personalities, invulnerability, macho, impulsivity, and anti-authority! Now he can resign himself to the fact he’s going to have to pay.. Hey, that’s 5 for 5! Good job.