LOS ANGELES – A Walnut resident in Southern California of Chinese origin has been arrested on federal charges of making a hoax threat by falsely reporting to airline and law enforcement officials that an acquaintance of his planned to blow up an airplane and posed a threat to the United States.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday that Dino Ninku, 36, of Walnut, was arrested Friday at his residence without incident by FBI Agents. Appearing before a United States Magistrate Judge Friday afternoon, Ninku was ordered held without bond pending trial.
Ninku was charged in a criminal complaint filed last week in United States District Court in Los Angeles with providing false information, a felony offense that carries a statutory maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
According to the affidavit in support of the complaint, a person later identified as Ninku called the Asiana Airlines reservations center in Los Angeles on August 5 and reported a passenger scheduled to travel from Asia to the United States on August 18 posed a terrorist threat and was threatening to blow up the plane.
Ninku, who also told the Asiana representative that the passenger had been recruiting other people in the U.S., provided details about the passenger’s flight itinerary and said that the attack would happen either on a flight from China to South Korea or a flight from South Korea to Los Angeles.
Asiana Airlines reported the information to law enforcement authorities in the United States, China and South Korea. Multiple law enforcement agencies also investigated the threat, including the FBI, which received a similar report via the internet.
A report to the Department of Homeland Security also provided details of the alleged threat, adding that the passenger planned to “take out public locations in the U.S. mainland” through the passenger’s “network.”
A report was also made to LAPD’s iWatch Program, according to court documents.
As part of the ensuing investigation, the victim of Ninku’s hoax threat became the subject of national security interest, and the United States State Department revoked the victim’s student visa. Further investigation revealed that the victim is a legitimate student pursuing an education, is not a member of a terrorist organization, and does not pose any known threat to the United States.
According to the criminal complaint, Ninku ultimately admitted during an interview with an FBI agent that the victim did not make terrorist threats and does not pose a credible threat to the United States.
At Ninku’s initial court appearance last Friday, he was ordered to appear for a preliminary hearing on October 6 and an arraignment on October 13.