A 45-year-old woman has been charged with allegedly providing false information that a man with whom she had a romantic relationship and other passengers posed a threat to a plane they were scheduled to board at Los Angeles International Airport.
A criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles has charged Lizet Sariol of Temple City with allegedly providing false and misleading information, specifically related to the destruction of a United Airlines aircraft on Sept. 25, a violation of Title 18 of the U.S. Code.
The complaint alleges that Sariol intentionally gave false and misleading information to a customer service representative at United Airlines when she made an anonymous phone call to a call center in Detroit, said FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller.
During the call, Sariol advised that a woman and two men with whom she was acquainted, as well as two others not identified, posed a threat to a flight they were scheduled to board later that day, according to the complaint. The passengers were expected to depart LAX for Las Vegas, with a final destination in Paris.
Sariol advised that she received a threatening text message, ostensibly from one of the men, which led her to believe that the group posed a threat, the complaint states. The caller further advised that the individuals were “foreigners” and that she intended to alert officials at the airport about the threat. The United representative noted that the caller never used the words “bomb” or “terrorists” but he suspected the threat was a bomb due to the woman’s comments.
The representative considered the information credible and United Airlines took immediate action by contacting government officials. Representatives with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) confirmed the itineraries of the passengers identified by Sariol, and an investigation into the alleged terrorist threat was initiated by the FBI, Eimiller said.
Prior to the flight’s departure, FBI investigators located and detained the men identified by Sariol, Eimiller said. The men explained they had been vacationing in the U.S. since July and during that time, one of them engaged in a romantic relationship with Sariol, the complaint states.
The man further explained that he ended the relationship with Sariol the night before the flight and he believed she incriminated him and his companions because she was unhappy about the relationship ending, according to the complaint.
Eimiller said investigators determined that Sariol allegedly sent a series of text messages by phone and to the Facebook accounts of the men expressing her displeasure and advising of her intention to report them to law enforcement for unspecified activity. Through her text messages, Sariol allegedly suggested that her close ties with law enforcement would ensure the men would be arrested and would not be allowed to return to the U.S., Eimiller said.
FBI investigators determined the travelers implicated by Sariol did not pose a threat to the airline and subsequently interviewed Sariol.
Sariol admitted to investigators that some of her messages may have been a mistake and acknowledged that her anonymous phone call to the airline was made in anger, according to the complaint.
Sariol surrendered to the FBI and appeared before a United States Magistrate in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Bond was set at $20,000.
If convicted, Sariol faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, Eimiller said.
The investigation was conducted by the FBI with the assistance of TSA and United Airlines.