Mississippi man pleads guilty to aiming a laser pointer at aircraft — at least 49 laser strikes over several months

Published 3:30 pm Thursday, December 16, 2021

A Mississippi man has pleaded guilty to aiming a laser pointer at aircraft.

Eugene Conrad, 52, of Michigan City, Mississippi, pleaded guilty on Dec. 14, 2021, in federal court.

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 with 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.

Conrad pled guilty on December 14, 2021.

Sentencing is set for March 10, 2022, before U.S. District Judge Thomas L. Parker where Conrad faces up to five years in federal prison to be followed by three years supervised release and a $250,000 fine. There is no parole in the federal system.

This case was investigated by the FBI – Joint Terrorism Task Force, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Hall is prosecuting this case on behalf of the government.