Memphis, TN- Convicted felon Eugene Conrad, 52, of Michigan City, Mississippi has been sentenced to three years of probation along with nine months of home confinement for aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft. Joseph C. Murphy, Jr., United States Attorney announced the sentence today.
According to information presented in court, on July 15, 2021, agents with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) notified the FBI Memphis Field Office of reports indicating that planes flying into the Memphis Airport from the east were consistently being struck in the cockpit and cabin by a green laser coming from the Hardeman County, Tennessee and Benton County, Mississippi area. From January 1, 2021, to July 15, 2021, there were 49 strikes by a green laser on aircraft, mainly Federal Express Planes flying at various altitudes.
On July 16, 2021, agents conducted surveillance in Saulsbury, Tennessee, during which time agents received reports from Memphis International Airport’s Air Traffic Control relaying that aircraft in the vicinity were being struck by a laser. Agents could see a general originating location but the lasering ceased before a specific origin could be determined.
On August 11, 2021, surveillance was again established near Saulsbury, Tennessee using an aircraft from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), with a camera affixed for surveillance. At approximately 9:30 pm, the TBI aircraft entered the area over Hardeman County, TN and almost immediately began reporting laser strikes originating from the south and southwest of their position.
The TBI plane circled the area several times. Surveillance equipment pinpointed an individual standing in front of a residence located at the intersection of Whippoorwill Road and Hamer Road in Benton County, Mississippi near the TN/MS border.
When agents arrived on the scene, they observed a male, later identified as Eugene Conrad, walking around a house while lasering the plane. A green laser pointer was found in an outdoor trashcan. Conrad admitted to law enforcement to intentionally striking planes flying near his residence with the green laser for several months.
“The FBI and our partners at the Federal Aviation Administration and the TBI Air Unit worked diligently to mitigate this threat to aviation and bring this criminal to justice. We will continue to investigate anyone who interferes with the safe operation of aircraft,” said Douglas M. Korneski, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Memphis Field Office. “It is important that people understand this is not a game — it is a criminal act with potential deadly consequences for pilots, crew, and passengers. When the powerful beam of light from a handheld laser is aimed at an aircraft, the light can illuminate a cockpit and blind pilots. Aiming a laser pointer at an aircraft is a serious matter and a violation of federal law.”
Conrad pled guilty on December 14, 2021.
On April 7, 2022, United States District Judge Thomas L. Parker sentenced Conrad to three years’ probation and nine months of home confinement. Other mandatory requirements stipulate that the defendant cannot commit another federal, state, or local crime and he must not own, possess, or have access to firearm, ammunition, destructive devices, or dangerous weapons.
This case was investigated by the FBI – Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the Hardeman County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant United States Attorney Stephen L. Hall prosecuted this case on behalf of the government.