CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — A man from Brazil was sentenced Tuesday to serve over a year in federal prison for intimidating a flight crew and flight attendants, and lessening and interfering with their ability to perform their duties.
This case was investigated by special agents with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).
Information disclosed in the case shows that, on or about June 23, 2018, Guilherme Alves De Melo (Alves), 34, a citizen of Brazil, was a passenger on an international American Airlines flight originating in Calgary, Canada, and bound for Chicago, Illinois. During the flight, Alves became disruptive and was repeatedly told by flight attendants that he needed to calm down and that his conduct was potentially in violation of federal law. The flight attendants brought the disruptive conduct to the attention of the captain. About an hour before the flight was to arrive in Chicago, Alves again became disruptive and was scaring other passengers. Less than a minute later, Alves was reported to have “lost it,” leading to some of the passengers needing to restrain him with zip ties provided by the flight crew.
Alves behavior on the plane included the following actions:
- Repeatedly hitting himself;
- Singing loudly and stomping his feet;
- Making strange hand gestures to a woman seated across the aisle from him and eventually moving to a seat next to her and placing his hand on her arm before being redirected to his seat by a flight attendant and another passenger;
- Writing on his face with a black marker;
- Tearing up several personal identification documents including a passport, visa, Brazilian driver’s license, and a boarding pass;
- Breaking a pen and destroying his headphones and eyeglasses;
- Feigning that others had hit him and that he was bleeding;
- Making wrist-slitting motions;
- Talking about “9-1-1” and asking a passenger “are you scared?”
As a result of Alves’s behavior, the flight attendants and crew were unable to attend to their normal duties, and 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 in Cedar Rapids, Alves was removed from the plane by Cedar Rapids Police. However, he again became loud and used expletives within sight and sound of other passengers, patrons and employees at the airport. Alves was charged with disorderly conduct for these actions and, on June 24, 2018, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in Linn County District Court. On Aug. 23, 2018, he pleaded guilty to federal charges of one count of intimidating a flight crew and flight attendants and lessening and interfering with their ability to perform their duties.
Alves was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Linda Reade to a term of imprisonment of one year and one day. Alves was also ordered to pay restitution to American Airlines in the amount of $4,790 for cost incurred in diverting the flight. The Court ordered Alves to pay restitution totaling $455 to two passengers for counseling services resulting from Alves’s conduct.
The Court separately ordered that Alves would be removed from the United States to Brazil after he completes his prison term.
This case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard L. Murphy, Northern District of Iowa.