An airline passenger accused of inappropriately touching a sleeping woman he did not know aboard a red-eye flight from Los Angeles to New Jersey last weekend is facing a federal charge, a prosecutor said Tuesday.
Veerabhadrarao Kunam, 58, of Visakhapatnam, India, is charged with one federal count of abusive sexual contact, said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
The defendant appeared Monday in federal court in Newark and was released on a $50,000 bond, Fishman said. The abusive sexual contact charge carries a maximum possible penalty of two years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
Kunam was taken into federal custody by the FBI on Saturday after his flight arrived in Newark.
According to the complaint, Kunam was seated next to a woman who occupied a middle seat on the Virgin America flight.
She fell asleep while the plane was in the air and awoke to find Kunam massaging her genitals and rubbing his bare feet against her bare feet, prosecutors allege.
Upon noticing Kunam touching her, the victim alerted her male travel companion, who traded seats with the victim and confronted Kunam, according to the complaint.
Kunam allegedly told the woman’s friend that he wanted everyone to forget about the incident and offered to buy the travel companion a drink for any trouble he may have caused.
The travel companion declined Kunam’s offer and alerted a flight crew member about what had allegedly occurred.
A member of the flight crew then moved Kunam to another seat and instructed him not to return to his original seat. Kunam allegedly told the flight attendant that he would not touch the woman again.
The federal government has exclusive jurisdiction over all sexual abuse cases that occur on aircraft in flight in the United States.
–City News Service
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