A middle-aged Indian man has been charged with sexual abuse after he molested a female passenger while she was asleep on an overnight Virgin America flight, according to prosecutors.
Veerabhadrarao Kunam, 58, of Visakhapatnam, India, is suspected of touching the vagina and buttocks of a woman sleeping next to him on Flight 170 from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey on July 29, reports Daily Mail.
Attorney Paul Fishman said Kunam was detained on July 30 when his flight arrived, and was released on $50,000 bond after an Aug. 1 court appearance in Newark.
The victim was sleeping in a middle seat while Kunam was seated in an aisle seat next to the woman. She awoke to find the suspect’s hands massaging her vagina and buttocks over her pants while rubbing his bare feet against hers.
The woman traded seats with her male travel companion and he confronted the suspect. Kunam then offered to buy him a drink and told him he wanted everyone to forget about the incident, say prosecutors. Kunam’s offer was declined by both parties.
The victim’s friend alerted the flight crew and they moved Kunam to another seat and the suspect said he would not touch the woman again, according to the complaint.
Virgin America spokesman Dave Arnold said in a statement that the crew had been warned to “reports of a disruptive individual” accused of inappropriate touching.
Arnold added that the flight staff moved Kunam and alerted law enforcement, who were waiting when the plane landed. Kunam was taken into federal custody upon arrival at the Newark airport, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
Kunam’s charge carries a maximum two-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine. The suspect’s lawyer, Alexander Spiro from Brafman & Associates, declined to comment.