McALLEN, Texas – Law enforcement has taken a 57-year-old La Joya man into federal custody on allegations that he pointed a laser at a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) helicopter, announced U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson.
Juan Peralez was taken into custody late yesterday upon the filing of a federal criminal complaint. He is expected to make his initial appearance before U.S Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby at 9:00 a.m. today.
At approximately 1:00 a.m. on June 20, 2016, CBP agents in a helicopter were assisting Border Patrol (BP) agents in an area south of La Joya. The criminal complaint states that while in flight, the crew noticed the light of a green laser in the cabin. The pilot took evasive action and turned away in order to avoid being blinded by the laser, according to the charges.
Another member of the flight crew then guided agents on the ground to the source of the laser where a BP agent encountered Peralez allegedly aiming the laser at the helicopter. The criminal complaint alleges the laser had been aimed at the helicopter four separate times.
According to agents with CBP Air and Marine, lasers are particularly hazardous when directed at aircraft. At a minimum, they create distractions for crews who routinely operate in the vicinity of power lines and towers. Lasers can also create temporary or permanent blindness. Further, since lasers can also be attached to weaponry, pilots will often take immediate evasive action which can also put them in harm’s way.
If convicted, Peralez faces up to five years imprisonment and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
The arrest is the result of a joint investigation between Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI with the assistance of Texas Department of Public Safety and BP.
A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.
A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.