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June 29, 2018Cedar Rapids, IA, United StatesOperational

Brazilian man charged in Iowa federal court for interfering with flight

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A Brazilian man was charged in federal court Thursday with intimidating a flight crew after causing the flight to divert to an Iowa airport while en route from Canada to Chicago.
This charge resulted from an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

Guilherme Alves De Melo (Alves), 33, and from Brazil, has been charged with one count of intimidating a flight crew member or attendant and lessening or interfering with their ability to perform their duties, in violation of federal law.  The charge is contained in a federal complaint filed June 26, 2018, in U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids.

The complaint alleges that, on June 23, Alves was a passenger on an international flight originating in Calgary, Canada, and bound for Chicago, Illinois.  During the flight, Alves became disruptive and was told by a member of the flight crew that he needed to calm down. About an hour before the flight was to arrive in Chicago, it is alleged that Alves again became disruptive and was scaring other passengers. Less than a minute later, Alves is alleged to have “lost it,” leading to some of the passengers restraining him with zip ties provided by the flight crew. As a result of this incident, the flight was diverted to the Eastern Iowa Airport in Cedar Rapids after it had begun its final descent to Chicago.

After the aircraft landed, Cedar Rapids police removed Alves from the airplane.  However, Alves became loud and used expletives within sight and sound of other passengers and employees at the airport.  Alves was charged by local police with disorderly conduct for these actions.  On June 24, 2018, Alves pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and paid a $100 fine in Linn County District Court.

If convicted on the federal charge, Alves faces a maximum sentence of 20 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and five years of supervised release following any imprisonment.

Alves appeared in federal court on June 28, at which time the court scheduled a detention hearing and a preliminary hearing for July 2, 2018. Alves was ordered detained without bond pending this detention hearing.

As with any criminal case, a charge is merely an accusation and a defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.

This case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard L. Murphy, Northern District of Iowa.

Updated: 10/16/2018