Street artist busted by NYPD for ‘drone’ posters

Attia allegedly posted this image on 56 pay phones.

A street artist named Essam Attia is in hot water with the NYPD — hot water that he foresaw in an article that some say might have led to his arrest.

Attia, 29, allegedly replaced posters in 56 pay-phone displays with fake “ads” using the NYPD’s official seal and reading “Drones: Protection When You Least Expect It.”

He now faces 56 counts of criminal possession of a forged instrument in the third degree.

According to the complaint, Attia is also being charged with grand larceny in the fourth degree, likely because the value of the stolen property exceeded $1,000, as well as possession of a firearm that was found between his bed frame and mattress when police searched his apartment.

The NYPD confirmed that he was arrested Wednesday, and the District Attorney’s Office reported that he was arraigned at 12:30 a.m. Thursday. Bail was set at $2,500 cash or $10,000 bond.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that two friends bailed him out and that the firearm charge was dropped. He is due in court again today.

Back in September, Attia was interviewed by the New York website ANIMAL, which identified him as “a 29-year-old art-school grad from Maine who served in Iraq as a ‘geo-spatial analyst.’”

Some in the art community have suggested the article may have helped police identify Attia.

The article included a video interview with Attia’s face and voice obscured, in which he asserts that his goal is to spark conversation.

“We have to remember that these are devices that right now are being used internationally to kill people,” Attia said in the video.

Did article lead to his arrest?

The DA’s Office and the NYPD declined to comment on whether the article helped lead them to Attia, though a source at the NYPD did indicate knowledge of the video included in the article when responding to inquiries about “NYPD drone strike zone” street signs around Brooklyn, for which the artist takes partial credit in the video.


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