PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Wei-Ming Shi, 58, an accountant who lives in Mt. Lebanon, took off running from our camera when he left the federal courthouse after his initial appearance Friday.

Shi appeared in front of the federal magistrate on charges of unlawful sexual contact aboard an aircraft and engaging in sexual contact without a person’s permission.  He’s accused of assaulting a woman on a Southwest Airlines flight from Las Vegas to Pittsburgh Thursday night.

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“The defendant who was on a flight from Las Vegas to Pittsburgh last night committed a sexual assault against a sleeping passenger in the next seat,” U.S. Attorney Dave Hickton said.

According to the criminal complaint filed by the FBI, Shi was sitting next to a woman on his flight when he put his hands under her dress and on her inner thigh and buttocks up to the edges of her underwear while she slept.  Awakened by the alleged assault, the woman told a flight attendant what had happened and had her seat changed.  When the flight landed at Pittsburgh International, Wei-Ming Shi was taken into custody by Allegheny County Police.

“Right after the flight was over, the FBI arrested him, interrogated him and he was quickly charged this morning and just had his initial appearance in front of the federal magistrate,” Hickton said.

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Officials say he cooperated with police.  The FBI says Shi claims he was getting mixed signals from the woman and that he was not under the influence of alcohol.  The victim told authorities she did not give Shi permission to touch her.  Authorities say they haven’t dealt with a case like this before.

“Very uncommon. Certainly the first time we’ve charged it since I’ve been here and in checking it does not appear this office has ever charged it before,” Hickton said.

If Shi is sentenced on these charges, he could face a maximum of five years in prison and a half a million dollars in fines.  The magistrate let Shi go on $10,000 unsecured bond and ordered him to surrender his passport.  He was also given travel restrictions.  His next court appearance is scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 24 at 1:30 p.m.

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