NY Man Accused Of Sexually Abusing Female Passenger On Newark-Bound Flight

By Miranda Katz (Gothamist)
June 18, 2016

A New York man on an overnight flight from Tel Aviv to Newark Airport sexually abused the female passenger next to him, prosecutors said yesterday. Yoel Oberlander, a 35-year-old man from Rockland County, is a registered sex offender who was convicted in 2002 for sexually abusing an 11-year-old girl, according to the office of U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.

According to the criminal complaint against Oberlander, he was a passenger on a May 29th El AI Airlines flight out of Tel Aviv, departing at about 12:30 a.m. and set to arrive at Newark at 5:45 a.m. He was in a window seat, while the female passenger he'd go on to allegedly abuse was in the middle seat, with her mother in the aisle seat. After dinner had been served and the cabin lights dimmed, Oberlander allegedly put his hand on the younger woman's thigh; when she shifted, he removed his hand, but soon replaced it, only to remove it yet again when she once more moved away, according to the complaint.

Later, the female passenger attempted to sleep, but while her eyes were closed, she allegedly felt Oberlander's hand on her breast. So as not to tip him off to the fact that she was awake, she moved closer to her mother, the complaint states, and he took his hand away. But shortly thereafter, he allegedly began rubbing her hand, and when she put it in her sweatshirt pocket, he once again placed his hand on her breast, according to the prosecution.

At that point, the female passenger turned completely away from Oberlander and covered herself with the airline blanket, the complaint states. When her mother woke up, her daughter asked to switch seats, and before the flight landed, the younger woman reported what had happened to the flight crew.

In addition to his 2002 abuse conviction, NBC reports that Oberlander was arrested for trespassing at a children's sleepaway camp in 2012.

If convicted, Oberlander will face up to 2 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.