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Press Release

Diamond Bar Man Sentenced to Nearly 2 Years in Federal Prison for Groping a Sleeping Passenger on a Cleveland-to-Los Angeles Flight

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Central District of California

LOS ANGELES – A Diamond Bar man was sentenced today to 21 months in federal prison for intentionally touching the inner thigh of a sleeping woman seated next to him on a flight from Cleveland to Los Angeles in February 2020.

Mohammad Jawad Ansari, 50, was sentenced by United States District Judge Fernando L. Aenlle-Rocha, who also ordered the defendant to pay a $33,750 fine, $1,600 in restitution, a $100 special assessment, and an additional $5,000 special assessment. Furthermore, Ansari was ordered to register as a sex offender.

At the conclusion of a four-day trial, a jury on May 9 found Ansari guilty of one count of abusive sexual contact.

On February 17, 2020, Ansari boarded a flight from Cleveland Hopkins International Airport to Los Angeles International Airport. Ansari occupied a window seat in the 10th row, while the victim occupied the middle seat next to him. The victim, who was wearing a dress, fell asleep shortly after takeoff and the armrest separating Ansari from the victim was down.

At some point during the flight to Los Angeles, Ansari placed his left hand on the victim’s right knee and, without the victim’s consent, moved his hand to her inner thigh. The person sitting in the aisle seat next to the victim witnessed Ansari’s hand touching the victim’s inner thigh.

The victim woke up, pushed Ansari’s hand away, left her seat, and informed a flight attendant about what had happened. The flight attendants observed Ansari during the remainder of the flight and believed he was pretending to sleep.

“[Ansari] committed a serious offense that caused immediate and long-lasting harm to [the victim],” prosecutors argued in a sentencing memorandum. “In the immediate aftermath, [Ansari’s] groping left [the victim] shocked and afraid and witnesses testified that she sobbed for the remainder of the flight…. [On flights, the victim] now struggles to fall asleep because she is constantly concerned about ‘what if someone touches me.’”

The FBI and the Los Angeles Airport Police investigated this matter.

Assistant United States Attorneys Samuel J. Diaz and James A. Santiago of the International Narcotics, Money Laundering, and Racketeering Section prosecuted this case.

The FBI’s Los Angeles Field Office has issued a public service announcement to bring awareness to the problem of sexual assault on airplanes. Victims of in-flight sexual misconduct – either verbal or physical – or their loved ones are encouraged to report the incident to a flight attendant and to your nearest FBI field office or to submit a tip online to the FBI at


Thom Mrozek
Director of Media Relations
(213) 894-6947

Updated October 5, 2023

Violent Crime
Press Release Number: 23-214