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Press Release

Former Department of Defense Contractor Pleads Guilty to Piloting Cargo Plane While Intoxicated

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A former Department of Defense contractor pleaded guilty today to piloting a cargo flight from Osan Air Base, South Korea to Yakota Air Base, Japan, while under the influence of alcohol.  

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Chief Master Sergeant Christopher J. VanBurger of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) made the announcement.

Daniel R. Criss, 61, of Mims, Fla., pleaded guilty to one count of operating a common carrier (aircraft) under the influence of alcohol while employed by the Armed Forces outside of the U.S., within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the U.S.  The plea was entered before U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel C. Irick of the Middle District of Florida.

According to admissions made in connection with his plea, on July 14, 2015, Criss was employed by a private company that contracted with the Department of Defense’s  U.S. Transportation Command to deliver cargo.  On that date, Criss was the pilot-in-command of a Boeing 747 aircraft transporting cargo and a flight crew from Osan Air Base, South Korea to Anchorage, Alaska, with a stopover in Yokota Air Base, Japan.  Criss admitted that when he arrived at Osan Air Base that morning at about 10:00 a.m., he was already under the influence of alcohol.  Before take-off, Criss’ co-pilots observed that he was having difficulty writing down the air traffic control clearance and discussed their concerns with Criss, who responded that he was tired and had not slept well.  Throughout the flight, Criss remained in command of the aircraft despite his level of intoxication.  Criss admitted that as the aircraft neared Yokota air space and began its descent, he missed numerous radio calls, lost situational awareness and ran an incorrect landing checklist.  Criss also admitted that, upon landing, he took control of the aircraft and taxied it to the runway at a higher than normal rate of speed, and, once the aircraft arrived at the ramp, he fell asleep, woke up and fell asleep again. 

According to admissions made in connection with his plea, Criss’ co-pilots, who believed that Criss was experiencing a medical emergency, called for assistance at about 2:00 p.m.  Medical personnel that attended to Criss noticed that Criss was slurring his speech and had an odor of alcohol on his breath.  At about 3:20 p.m., blood drawn from Criss and tested for alcohol revealed an estimated blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .144%.  Medical personnel who examimed this and a second blood test estimated that Criss’ BAC was between 0.152% and 0.146% at the time he last operated the aircraft.   

AFOSI investigated this case.  Trial Attorneys Sasha N. Rutizer and Mona Sahaf of the Human Rights and Special Prosecutions Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division are prosecuting the case.

Updated August 15, 2017

Press Release Number: 17-912