Robert Feneziani, 44, of San Diego, was arrested Wednesday by FBI agents with the Joint Terrorism Task Force of Western New York and charged with lying on a military application for a security clearance. He pleaded not guilty and was released on $10,000 bail.
On an October application for top security clearance, Feneziani said he had not been arrested or involved in civil court actions in the last seven years, Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Lynch said.
Officials later found he was arrested on two misdemeanor charges in San Diego, charges that were later dropped, and was involved in a civil court matter in 2000.
According to an FBI agent's affidavit, the woman, whose identity was not revealed in court papers, called the FBI Feb. 2 and told the agent Feneziani had made a threat in 2003 to crash a plane. Based on that information, the FBI investigated Feneziani and learned he had allegedly lied on the Defense Department form, the affidavit said.
United Airlines spokesman Jeff Green said Feneziani was removed from service pending the outcome of the case. Authorities said Feneziani had already been suspended from military flight status based on problems with anger management.
Authorities continue to investigate the statements Feneziani allegedly made to the woman and future charges are possible, U.S. Attorney Michael Battle said Thursday.
"For reasons that are fairly obvious, we have to take these claims seriously," he said. "We don't know where they're going to lead us. If it were a passenger at an airport or on a plane it's one thing, but when you're talking about a pilot who's in a little bit more control, it ratchets it up a little bit."
The woman said that Feneziani made the threat about Wall Street because "he was frustrated that some people made easy money," the court papers said.
"We do not believe he poses any imminent threat to commit an act of terrorism, but we believe he has made threatening remarks in the past that cause some serious concern," said Peter Ahearn, special agent in charge of the FBI in Buffalo.
The charge of providing false statements to the Defense Department carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Feneziani was assigned to the New York Air National Guard's 107th Air Refueling Wing in Niagara Falls.