Man caught molesting sleeping woman on Newark flight offered to buy drink afterward, feds say
NEWARK — A man from India has been charged with abusive sexual contact after he allegedly touched a sleeping woman in a sexual manner while aboard a plane bound for Newark Liberty International Airport, authorities said.
Veerabhadrarao Kunam, 58, of Visakhapatnam, India, was seated next to a woman on a Virgin America redeye flight that departed July 29 from Los Angeles and was headed to Newark for a July 30 arrival, according to the complaint.
The woman was in a middle seat next to Kunam, who was in the aisle seat. At some point while the plane was in the air, the woman awoke and realized Kunam was "massaging her genitals and rubbing his bare feet against her bare feet," according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.
According to the complaint, when the woman — who has not been identified — noticed that Kunam was touching her, she told her male travel companion who was next to her in the window seat. The two then switched seats. Authorities say the man confronted Kunam who "allegedly told the victim’s travel companion that he wanted everyone to forget about the incident and offered to buy the travel companion a drink for any trouble he may have caused."
The victim's companion then told the flight crew what had happened. Kunam was switched to an empty seat and the flight crew told him not to return to his seat next to the victim, the complaint states.
"Kunam allegedly told the flight crew member that he would not touch the victim again," according to authorities.
After the flight landed on July 30, authorities say Kunam was arrested and taken into Federal custody by the FBI. He made an appearance Monday in federal court in Newark and was released on $50,000 bond.
If convicted on the abusive sexual contact charge, Kunam faces a possible maximum penalty of two years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.