MEMPHIS, Tenn.– A Mississippi man won’t be going anywhere any time soon after being sentenced to probation and home confinement for aiming a laser pointer at aircraft, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Tuesday.
United States District Judge Thomas L. Parker sentenced Eugene Conrad to three years of probation and nine months of home confinement on April 7, 2022. Mandatory requirements also state that he cannot commit another federal, state or local crime and he must not own, possess or have access to firearms, ammunition, destructive devices or dangerous weapons.
According to information presented in court, on July 15, 2021, agents with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) notified the FBI Memphis Field Office of reports that planes flying into the Memphis Airport from the east were consistently being struck in the cockpit and cabin by a green laser from the Hardeman County, Tennessee and Benton County, Mississippi area.
From January 1, 2021 to July 15, 2021, there were 49 strikes by a green laser on aircraft, mainly FedEx planes, according to court documents.
Agents conducted surveillance in Saulsbury, Tennessee on July 16. During that time, Memphis International Airport’s Air Traffic Control reported that aircraft in the area were being struck by a laser. Agents could see the general location of where the laser was coming from, but the lasering stopped before a specific location could be determined.
A TBI plane with a camera conducted surveillance the same area two months later. When the plane entered the area over Hardeman County, it almost immediately reported laser strikes from the south and southwest of their position.
The TBI plane circled the area and surveillance equipment pinpointed an individual standing in front of a home at the intersection of Whippoorwill Road and Hamer Road in Benton County.
When agents arrived at the home, they saw Conrad walking around the house while lasering the plane. A green laser pointer was found in an outdoor trashcan.
Authorities said Conrad admitted to intentionally striking planes flying near his residence with the green laser for several months.
Conrad pled guilty on December 14, 2021.
“The FBI and our partners at the Federal Aviation Administration and the TBI Air Unit worked diligently to mitigate this threat to aviation and bring this criminal to justice. We will continue to investigate anyone who interferes with the safe operation of aircraft,” said Douglas M. Korneski, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Memphis Field Office. “It is important that people understand this is not a game — it is a criminal act with potential deadly consequences for pilots, crew, and passengers. When the powerful beam of light from a handheld laser is aimed at an aircraft, the light can illuminate a cockpit and blind pilots. Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a serious matter and a violation of federal law.”