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Former Flight Attendant Sentenced for Setting Plane on Fire

FARGO, ND—U.S. Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon announced that on Dec. 16, 2011, Eder H. Rojas, 23, formerly from Woodbury, Minn., was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Ralph R. Erickson on a charge of setting an aircraft on fire.

Judge Erickson sentenced Rojas to six years’ imprisonment to be followed by three years of supervised release. Rojas was ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $98,408 and to pay a $100 special assessment to the Crime Victim’s Fund. A charge of failure to appear was dismissed as part of the plea agreement in this matter.

Rojas pleaded guilty on Sept. 26, 2011, to setting fire to an aircraft of Compass Airlines approximately 35 minutes into the flight, which had originated in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 7, 2008. The plane was traveling to Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and carrying approximately 72 passengers and four crew members. Rojas was working as a flight attendant on the plane. The aircraft was forced to make an emergency landing in Fargo, N.D.

In a later interview, Rojas admitted to agents that he had intentionally used a lighter to start the paper towels in the rear bathroom of the aircraft on fire. Rojas indicated his reason for starting the fire was that he was upset with the airline for making him work on that route.

Rojas was originally scheduled for trial in September of 2008. He was placed in a halfway house in Fargo pending trial. On the eve of his trial, Rojas fled to Mexico. Rojas was returned to North Dakota on Aug. 3, 2011, through the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Marshals Service.

“Securing the safety of air travelers in the United States is an important mission of law enforcement,” stated U.S. Attorney Timothy Q. Purdon. “The sentence imposed in this case should send the message that those who tamper with that safety will pay the price.”

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