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06/24/2016

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South Texas man charged with pointing laser at a law enforcement helicopter

MCALLEN, Texas — South Texas law enforcement arrested a 57-year-old man Thursday alleging that he pointed a laser at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) helicopter at least four times.

This arrest was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas.  This investigation is being conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI, with the assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).

Juan Peralez, 57, from La Joya, Texas, was taken into custody June 23 after a federal criminal complaint was filed.  Peralez is scheduled to make his initial appearance June 24 before U.S Magistrate Judge Peter Ormsby.

According to court documents, at about 1 a.m. on June 20 CBP agents flying in a helicopter were assisting CBP Border Patrol agents in an area south of La Joya. The criminal complaint states that while in flight, the crew noticed the light of a green laser in the cabin. The pilot took evasive action and turned away in order to avoid being blinded by the laser, according to the charges.

Another member of the flight crew then guided agents on the ground to the source of the laser where CBP encountered Peralez allegedly aiming the laser at the helicopter. The criminal complaint alleges the laser had been aimed at the helicopter four separate times.

According to CBP’s Air and Marine Operations, lasers are particularly hazardous when directed at aircraft. At a minimum, the lasers create dangerous distractions for crews who routinely operate in the vicinity of power lines and towers.  If shined in eyes, the intense light from lasers can also create temporary or permanent blindness. Further, since lasers can also be connected to weaponry, pilots will often take immediate evasive action which can also put them in harm’s way.

If convicted, Peralez faces up to five years imprisonment and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.

A criminal complaint is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence.  A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 06/24/2016