Fatal Attraction Fake Terrorist Case Grounded at LAX

November 26, 2011

According to federal prosecutors, the United Airlines ("UA") call center (based in Detroit, MI) received an anonymous phone call from a woman who claimed five "foreigners" posed a threat to a flight they were scheduled to board later that day. The woman identified the five French visitors as two men with whom she was acquainted, another woman, and two unidentified individuals.

In response to questions from a UA operator, the caller explained that she had received a threatening text message, ostensibly from one of the men, which led her to believe that the group posed a threat. Deeming the caller's tip credible, UA immediately contacted the authorities.  The Transportation Security Administration confirmed the itineraries of the passengers identified for the flight in question; and the FBI initiated an investigation into the alleged terrorist threat. The UA operator advised the FBI that he believed that a bomb could be on the plane.

Hell Hath No Fury

Upon their arrival at Los Angeles International Airport ("LAX"), the fingered men were found by the FBI.  In response to questioning, the men explained they had been vacationing in the U.S. since July 2011, during which time, one of them was involved in a romantic relationship with Lizet Sariol, 45, of Temple City, CA. The visitor ended his relationship with Sariol the night before, and he believed that she was so unhappy with that development, that she incriminated him and his companions.

Hot On the Trail

Thereafter, federal investigators allegedly determined that Sariol had sent a series of text messages telephonically and to the Facebook accounts of the men.  In her messages, Sariol purportedly expressed her displeasure with the men's actions toward her, and warned of her intention to report them to law enforcement. In fact, Sariol implied that she had already reported the men to the FBI and that she "hoped" they had good attorneys. Moreover, Sariol's text messages suggested that her close ties with law enforcement would ensure the men would be arrested and prohibited from returning to the U.S. Specifically, federal prosecutors allege that one text message from Sariol stated: "Already called the airlines considered you all terrorists including annie,"

Ultimately, FBI investigators determined the travelers implicated by Sariol did not pose a threat to the airline.  Sariol allegedly admitted that some of her messages may have been a mistake and that anonymous phone call to UA was made in anger.

On November 23, 2011, Sariol was charged in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles with providing false and misleading information; specifically, fabricating a terrorist threat to UA on September 25th, 2011.  If convicted of the charge, Sariol faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison.

NOTE: A criminal complaint contains allegations and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty in a court of law.