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Indian American indicted for groping sleeping woman on flight

world Updated: Oct 21, 2010 10:54 IST
Ranchhodbhai Lakha

An Indian American man accused of sexually assaulting a woman while she slept during a flight has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Ranchhodbhai Lakha, 61, of Alpharetta, Georgia, faces charges of assault and abusive sexual contact for the Sep 28 incident on a Delta Air Lines flight from Dallas to Atlanta, the US Attorney's Office said on Wednesday.

A 20-year-old woman seated in the same row as Lakha fell asleep and woke up to find the man allegedly touching her below the waist, according to US.Attorney Sally Quillian Yates. The woman removed his hand but Lakha allegedly touched her again, prompting the woman to get up from her seat and report the incident to a flight attendant, Yates said.

"Sexual assault is a crime wherever it happens, including airplanes," Yates said in a statement. "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."

The FBI is also investigating Lakha, who could be linked to similar crimes in Alabama, Yates said.

Lakha is in custody and his next court appearance is scheduled for Monday. If convicted, Lakha could face a maximum sentence of life in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.