A Georgia man has been arrested for sexually assaulting a 20-year-old passenger on a Delta flight from Dallas, Texas to Atlanta, Georgia on September 28 while she was sleeping.
The woman woke up to discover the man, 61-year-old Ranchhodbhai Lakha, touching her below the waist. She removed his hand and told him to stop, as the federal indictment states.
According to CNN, Lakha asked her "Is that OK? You don't like that?" The woman replied no. Lakha touched her again. At this point the woman got out of her seat and reported the assault to a flight attendant.
Lakha - now in custody - has a tentative initial appearance before a U.S. magistrate on October 25, though he has not yet entered a plea.
There may be other cases of sexual assault involving Lakha â€“ possibly in Alabama â€“ said agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. A spokesman for the U.S. attorneyâ€™s office in Atlanta, Patrick Crosby, said he did not know whether the other cases involved commercial flights. He also does not know whether Lakha has a record.
U.S. Attorney Sally Quillian Yates said "Sexual assault is a crime wherever it happens, including airplanes. Many passengers let their guard down or even fall asleep in the closed, often crowded environment of an airplane, which makes this kind of sexual assault so deplorable."
Officials said the indictment charges one count of assault, two counts of abusive sexual contact and one count of attempt to engage in a sexual act with someone who is physically incapable of declining participation or communicating unwillingness to engage in a sexual act. If convicted of all charges Lakha could face life in prison as well as fines of up to $250,000.
CNN says anyone who may have been victimized is asked to call the FBI in Atlanta at 404-679-9000.