marshal When a woman alleged that she was being sexually assaulted on an American Airlines flight, federal air marshals took charge and arrested the alleged assailant. (Transportation Security Administration)

A Sterling man has been arrested by the FBI and charged with the federal felony of abusive sexual contact for allegedly fondling a fellow passenger on a flight last month into Reagan National Airport.

Now, this was not a passing touch, as alleged in a federal affidavit by FBI Special Agent David Wiegand, and unwanted sexual contact is a serious matter. And in this age of federal air marshals, Saurabh Agarwal of Sterling was arrested before his flight from Miami even landed at National. He is now facing up to two years in federal prison.

Agarwal, 40, reportedly sat next to a woman he did not know on an American Airlines flight on April 10. The woman told investigators that she fell asleep shortly after takeoff. When she awoke, she allegedly found the man’s hand beneath her blouse and inside her bra, fondling her breast, Wiegand’s affidavit states. The woman pretended to be asleep, and she reported that her seatmate kept squeezing her body and her hand tightly, with his other hand.

Finally the beverage cart came around. “Saurabh Agarwal bought a scotch,” Wiegand reported, “and then told the flight attendant to make it two scotches instead. He then grabbed [the woman]’s arm to ask if she wanted scotch.” The woman continued to pretend to be asleep. Then, the groping resumed, the affidavit states.

At some point, the woman went to the back of the plane and told the flight crew what was going on. A man sitting across the aisle from the woman also went to the back of the plane, having witnessed all this, and learned that the man and woman were not previously acquainted. He reportedly corroborated the woman’s story, Wiegand wrote. The air marshals then arrested Agarwal.

Agarwal’s attorney, Stuart Sears, declined to comment. After his arrest, Agarwal waived his preliminary hearing last week and was indicted on Tuesday by a federal grand jury in Alexandria.