Woman Charged with Hoax for Making Anonymous Call to Airline Implicating Her Former Boyfriend and His Companions in Terrorist Threat
|U.S. Attorney’s Office November 23, 2011|
A Temple City woman was taken into custody this morning on charges that she provided false information suggesting that French visitors, one of whom she had been romantically involved, posed a threat to a plane they were scheduled to board at LAX, announced Steven Martinez, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI in Los Angeles, and André Birotte Jr., the United States Attorney in Los Angeles.
Lizet Sariol, 45, of Temple City, was charged in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles with providing false and misleading information; specifically, fabricating a terrorist threat to United Airlines (UA) on September 25th, 2011, a violation of Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1038.
The complaint alleges that Sariol intentionally conveyed false and misleading information to a customer service representative at United Airlines (UA) when she made an anonymous phone call to the UA call center based in Detroit, Michigan. During the call, Sariol advised that a woman and two men with whom she was acquainted, as well as two others not further identified, posed a threat to a flight they were scheduled to board later that day. When questioned further by the UA representative, 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. Sariol further advised that the individuals were “foreigners” and that she intended to alert officials at the airport about the threat.
The United Airlines representative considered the information credible and UA took immediate action by contacting government officials. Representatives with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) confirmed the itineraries of the passengers identified by Sariol for the flight in question, and an investigation into the terrorist threat was initiated by the FBI. When the UA representative was interviewed, he advised investigators that the call made him “real nervous” and that the context in which the threat was conveyed by Sariol led him to believe that a bomb could be on the plane.
Prior to the flight’s departure, FBI investigators located the men whose names Sariol provided upon their arrival for their scheduled flight at LAX. The men explained they had been vacationing in the U.S. since July 2011 and that, during that time, one of them engaged in a romantic relationship with Sariol. The man further explained that he ended the relationship with Sariol hours the night before. The man told investigators that he believed Sariol incriminated him and his companions because she was unhappy about the relationship ending.
Investigators determined that Sariol sent a series of text messages telephonically and to the Facebook accounts of the men expressing her displeasure with their actions toward her, and advising of her intention to report them to law enforcement for unspecified activity. Sariol implied that she reported the men to the FBI and that she “hoped” they had good attorneys. Through her text messages, Sariol 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. In one message, Sariol texted the following, “Already called the airlines considered you all terrorists including annie,” according to the complaint.
FBI investigators determined the travelers implicated by Sariol did not pose a threat to the airline and subsequently interviewed Sariol. During the interview, Sariol admitted to investigators that some of her messages may have been a mistake. Sariol acknowledged that her anonymous phone call to United Airlines was made in anger and was meant to sound suspicious, according to the complaint.
Sariol surrendered to the FBI this morning and appeared before a United States Magistrate in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles. Bond was set at $20,000.
If convicted of the charge, Sariol faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.
This investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation with the assistance of TSA and United Airlines. Sariol is being prosecuted by the United States Attorney’s Office.
A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.