News and Press Releases

Passenger Charged in Making Threats to Take Down Airplane

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 10, 2014

Wifredo A. Ferrer, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade County State Attorney, Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Miami Field Office, and J.D. Patterson, Director, Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD), announce today the filing of a criminal complaint charging Francisco Fernando Cruz, 22, a citizen of Brazil, with sending threatening emails claiming that a TAM Airline flight from Miami to Brasilia “will go down”.

According to the criminal complaint, on January 8, 2014, an e-mail was sent to MDPD as well as TAM Airlines. The content of the e-mail made a specific threat against a TAM Airlines Flight which was to depart on January 10, 2014, from Miami to Brasilia. The threat stated the following: “Flight must not take off. Targeted. It will go down. Retaliation. Cargo is dangerous. Be advised.”

U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer stated, “Law enforcement remains ever vigilant for threats to domestic and international air travel. We will leave no stone unturned when a threat to the safety of air passengers is made and to ensure that justice is served.”

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle stated, “The protection of our flying public depends on the skills and expertise of our federal, state, and local law enforcement team. This case shows that South Florida’s law enforcement professionals, working together like clockwork, will not let fear hamper our ability to travel and live our lives productively.”

“The FBI and its partners take threats of this nature very seriously,” said Michael B. Steinbach, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Miami. “Through the hard work of Miami Dade PD, Customs and Border Protection and the FBI’s Newark office, the flight was not disrupted.”

“Once again, the successful collaboration between federal, state, and local authorities yields an important indictment. The public safety of those traveling is paramount, and any threats made to disrupt it will be investigated without impunity,” said J.D. Patterson, Director, Miami-Dade Police.

MDPD was able to trace the origin of the e-mail and determined the e-mail originated from a computer at Montclair State University in Montclair, NJ. The university was able to capture video of the person that utilized the kiosk that sent the e-mail.

The following day, the email was resent, again with the threat. Law enforcement were able to identity Cruz as the sender of the two emails. Cruz traveled from New York to Miami and was scheduled to travel to Brasilia on the flight against which he made the threat.

If convicted, the defendant faces a statutory maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The case is set for pretrial detention hearing on January 14, 2014 and for arraignment on January 24, 2014. Both hearings are scheduled for 10:00 a.m. before the duty magistrate.

Mr. Ferrer commended the investigative efforts of the FBI and MDPD. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Karen Gilbert and Jaime Galvin.

A complaint is only an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Attachment:

Complaint (PDF)

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A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at http://www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

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