RALEIGH, N. C. – A man accused of trying to impress a woman by landing a helicopter chartered at a North Carolina technology company is planning to plead guilty to impersonating a three-star general of the Army, and will admit that he is healthy at the time, according to a new court filing.
The strange case against Christian Desgroux unfolded after authorities say he unexpectedly had a charter helicopter pilot lands on a football field last November on the sprawling corporate campus of SAS Institute, Cary. Wearing a military combat uniform, Desgroux told a security officer who confronted him that he was there to pick up a female employee to take her to Fort Bragg for a classified briefing approved by President Donald Trump, according to the federal agents.
After he was charged with a federal count of pretending to be a military officer, his lawyer asked the 58-year-old to undergo a psychological evaluation. A Homeland Security agent earlier testified that the researchers suspect Desgroux was mentally ill.
Desgroux was investigated in a federal prison facility in California, and a psychiatric report was submitted under the seal of the court in May, according to court records.
It is not clear exactly what the report says, but his lawyer wrote in a court filing last Thursday that his client won’t object to the conclusion that he was legally sane at the time.
The lawyer Andrew McCoppin, also wrote that his client plans to plead guilty to the charges against him. McCoppin not immediately respond to a message seeking comment on Monday.
Prosecutors say that the indictment of Desgroux carries a maximum of three years in prison, but McCoppin argues in court documents that sentencing guidelines call for no more than six months. Desgroux already in federal custody for about five months, so McCoppin is in search of his release pending sentencing.
A competency hearing and arraignment is scheduled for next week.
It was around sunset Nov. 6 when Desgroux stepped out of the helicopter wearing a uniform, which three stars, which implied a rank of lieutenant general in the Army, the authorities say. Homeland Security Special Agent Tony Bell testified earlier this year that Desgroux greeted the security officers and they saluted him back.
But the story was false, and the authorities say that Desgroux later admitted that he was never in the army. Bell testified that a female knowledge of Desgroux expected him to arrive in a car for a visit, but instead they went on a 30-minute helicopter ride around Raleigh. The agent said Desgroux wanted to pursue a romantic relationship, but the woman is married.
She and the pilot seems to have been swept up in Desgroux’s strange behavior and were not charged.
The episode was concerning enough that a joint terrorism task force joined the investigation. SAS is with 14,000 employees worldwide and is one of the largest companies based in North Carolina.
Desgroux, a native of Chile, has lived in the Raleigh area for a number of decades and recently became a US citizen. He worked from his home as a auto mechanic.
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