MCALLEN, Texas — A South Texas man pleaded guilty Friday to pointing a laser at an airborne U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) helicopter.
This guilty plea was announced by U.S. Attorney Kenneth Magidson, Southern District of Texas. This investigation was led by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and the FBI, with the assistance of Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Border Patrol.
Juan Peralez, from La Joya, Texas, pleaded guilty Sept. 2 to pointing a laser at CBP helicopter. U.S. District Judge Randy Crane accepted Peralez’s plea and set sentencing for Nov. 17.
According to court documents, Peralez was arrested June 20. On that date, CBP agents in a helicopter were assisting Border Patrol agents in an area south of La Joya when they 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. Another member of the flight crew then guided CBP agents on the ground to the source of the laser where a Border Patrol agent encountered Peralez aiming the laser at the helicopter.
CBP Air and Marine agents say that lasers are particularly hazardous when directed at aircraft. At a minimum, they create distractions for crews who routinely operate in the vicinity of power lines and towers. Lasers can also create temporary or permanent blindness. Further, since lasers can also be attached to weaponry, pilots will often take immediate evasive action which can also put them in harm’s way.
Peralez was permitted to remain on bond pending his sentencing hearing, at which time he faces up to five years imprisonment and a possible $250,000 maximum fine.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Leonard, Southern District of Texas, is prosecuting this case.