You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Illinois

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, May 28, 2015

Naperville Man Pleads Guilty To Setting Fire To Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center In Aurora

CHICAGO — A Naperville man pled guilty today to federal charges he set fire to the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center in Aurora on September 26, 2014, federal law enforcement officials announced today. Brian Howard, 37, of Naperville, was charged by information earlier this month with one count of willfully setting fire to, damaging, destroying or disabling an air navigation facility; and one count of using fire to commit a federal felony. Howard will be sentenced on September 11, 2015 by U.S. District Court Judge Gary Feinerman and remains in federal custody since his arrest in September 2014.

According to court documents, Howard was employed by an FAA contractor at the Chicago Air Route Traffic Control Center (the “Control Center”) in Aurora, Illinois. Howard worked on telecommunications matters at the Control Center and at other FAA facilities for approximately eight years.

Howard pled guilty to intentionally damaging and disabling the telecommunication infrastructure at the Control Center, and setting fire to the area which housed these key components.

The charges were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Robert J. Holley, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Carl Vasilko, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew K. Polovin.

Individuals impacted by the September 26, 2014 fire who wish to receive notice about future court hearings, including sentencing, are encouraged to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Victim Hotline number at 866-364-2621 (press #3), or by email at usailn.victim.aa@usdoj.gov.

The charge of willfully setting fire to, damaging, destroying or disabling an air navigation facility, or willfully interfering by force or violence with the operation of that facility, likely endangering the safety of aircraft in flight, carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the gross loss caused by defendant’s actions.

The charge of using fire to commit a federal felony carries a mandatory penalty of 10 years in prison, which must be in addition to any sentence imposed for the underlying felony.

If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.

Plea Agreement
Victim Resources

Updated July 24, 2015