Flight Attendant Charged Over Mid-Air Bomb Hoax
Last Updated: March 29, 2002 07:05 AM ET
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NEWARK, N.J. (Reuters) - A Virgin Atlantic flight attendant suspected of writing a false al Qaeda bomb threat was ordered held on $250,000 bail on Thursday after U.S. authorities charged him with claiming to have found the note on a transatlantic flight that was then diverted to Iceland.
Michael Philippe, 25, of France was being held at a New Jersey county jail on the cash bail ordered by U.S. Magistrate Ronald Hedges in U.S. District Court in Newark.
Officials charge that the Jan. 19 flight from London bound for Orlando, Florida, was diverted after Philippe reported to the flight's captain and another attendant that he had found the misspelled message reading "Bin Laden is the best Americans must die there is a bomb on board Al Quaida" written on an airsickness bag in the plane's toilet.
A second message "American must die" was written on a mirror, he is alleged to have told the crew members.
Based on matching fingerprints and handwriting, the FBI believes Philippe wrote the messages, an FBI agent's affidavit said.
Icelandic police searched the plane after it landed in Keflavik and found no threat, the FBI said. The plane continued on to Orlando the next day.
Philippe was charged on Thursday in a U.S. District Court in Florida with intimidating a flight crew and aircraft and interference with a flight crew -- one of numerous alarms over security on board airplanes since the Sept. 11 hijackings and attacks on the United States by Islamic militants linked to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Philippe faces a maximum sentence of 20 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
U.S. marshals are expected to transport Philippe to Orlando soon to face charges in a federal court there, FBI spokeswoman Sara Oates said in Tampa, Florida.
Oates would not comment on whether additional charges would be made.
FBI agents arrested Philippe on Wednesday night at Newark Airport on his way to board a flight on which he was to work, the FBI said.