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Press Release

Two Men Charged in Separate Incidents of Misconduct on Airlines

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of Virginia

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – A federal grand jury returned two indictments today and yesterday charging an Alexandria man and a New York City man in separate incidents of criminal conduct aboard aircraft arriving at Washington Dulles International Airport.

According to the indictment filed today, on December 2, 2021, Elias Fethamlk, 40, knowingly interfered with a flight attendant’s duties by disregarding the flight attendant’s instructions and assaulting the flight attendant while on board an Ethiopian Airlines flight traveling from Dublin, Ireland to Dulles International Airport.

Fethamlk is charged with one count of interference with flight crew members and attendants, and one count of simple assault in the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.

A separate indictment filed yesterday charges Ivan Lopez, Jr., age 26, with sexually assaulting another passenger onboard a commercial flight

According to court documents, it is alleged that Lopez was a passenger on a commercial flight from Las Vegas McCarran International Airport to Washington Dulles International Airport on December 24, 2021. During the flight, the passenger seated next to Lopez fell asleep. The indictment alleges that she awoke to Lopez repeatedly rubbing her right breast. When the passenger opened her eyes, she allegedly observed Lopez leaning over her and his right hand was placed on her right breast. The passenger allegedly yelled at Lopez and he moved to the back of the aircraft, where he allegedly admitted to a flight attendant that he sexually assaulted the woman.

Lopez is charged with abusive sexual contact aboard an aircraft in flight. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison.

Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Jessica D. Aber, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Michael Glasheen, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Washington Field Office Counterterrorism Division, made the announcement.

Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Caylee Campbell and Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Lowe are prosecuting the case against Fethamlk. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Rachel L. Rothberg and Assistant U.S. Attorney Marc J. Birnbaum are prosecuting the case against Lopez.

A copy of this press release is located on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information are located on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:22 cr 006 and Case No. 1:22 cr 10.

An indictment is merely an accusation. The defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Updated January 19, 2022