Fresno, California - Monday an indictment was unsealed charging Pablo Cesar Sahagun, 26, of Bakersfield, in connection with laser strikes of a police helicopter and possessing seven bombs, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced. The indictment was returned by a federal grand jury on July 16, 2015.
Sahagun was charged with aiming the beam of a green laser pointer at Air-1, a Kern County Sheriff’s Office helicopter. According to court documents, the laser pointer was key‑activated and was labeled a Laser 301, a device which purports to have strong burning capabilities. Sahagun was also found to be in possession of seven CO2 cartridge or cricket bombs. Cricket bombs are improvised explosive devices which can kill or seriously injure people.
Reports of laser attacks have increased dramatically in recent years as powerful laser devices have become more affordable and widely available to the public. In 2014, the Federal Aviation Administration received 3,894 reports of incidents of laser strikes on aircraft. In the Eastern District of California, there were 150 reported incidents last year, with the majority in Bakersfield, Fresno, and Modesto. Lasers can incapacitate pilots, endangering their crew members, passengers and people on the ground.
This case being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Kern County Sheriff’s Office, and Bakersfield Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Karen A. Escobar is prosecuting the case.
Sahagun is scheduled for an initial appearance on the indictment today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jennifer L. Thurston in Bakersfield. He faces a prison term of five years and a fine of up to $250,000, if convicted of aiming the beam of a laser pointer at an aircraft. If convicted of the bomb charge, Sahagun faces an additional 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
If you have information about a lasing incident, or see someone pointing a laser at an aircraft, call your local FBI field office or dial 911.