FORT LAUDERDALE — When Wegal Rosen learned he’d have to pay for a carry-on bag before getting on a plane bound for Canada on Saturday, the part-time South Florida resident was upset.
His anger grew worse when he was told he would have to pay to carry his bag on board. And he ended up in a heated argument when an Air Canada agent who said the airline has a no-cash policy and he’d have to walk from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 to buy a Visa card to pay for his carry-on item.
What happened next caused panic and major issues for airlines and travelers when the airport shut down for about four hours and three of the terminals had to be evacuated.
According to a police report, at 8:30 a.m. Rosen, 74 of Ontario, walked away from the ticket counter where he had been arguing with the Air Canada agent. As he was walking, the agent called out that he left his carry-on bag there and he needed to come and get it.
Rosen, the report said, told the agent there was a bomb in the bag. Unaware that the bag actually contained Rosen’s CPAP machine, which helps him breath when he is sleeping, deputies combed the airport for hours making sure there were no bombs.
Eight flights were canceled and 50 flights were delayed. Now Rosen faces 15 years in prison — which, for a person his age, could mean spending the rest of his life behind bars.
Rosen was taken to jail, where he remained Monday afternoon. Clad in a jail jumpsuit, he appeared before Judge Tabitha Blackmon on Monday. His attorney, whose full name was not readily available, spoke on his behalf: “He said the magic words you do not say.”
Prosecutor Eric Linder agreed. “Obviously it would be very concerning if he did have an explosive device, your honor, but anybody — anybody — in our society knows what the impact is of making statement about having a bomb in the airport.”
Rosen’s attorney said his client was heading home to Toronto to see a cardiologist. Blackmon, who set bond at $20,000, said Rosen was free to go back to Canada while his case plays out, but that he was forbidden to get there by flying out of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. “You cannot return to the Fort Lauderdale airport, Mr. Rosen, do you understand?” Blackmon said.
Rosen said he did understand.
“To get back to Canada, he’ll have to go through Miami, West Palm Beach or any other county,” Blackmon said.