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Justin Bieber could face federal prison time and a hefty fine if the Federal Aviation Administration finds he interfered with the flight crew aboard a private jet, according to authorities.
Last week, NBC News exclusively obtained a law enforcement report that said Bieber and his father had been “extremely abusive” to a flight attendant during a flight from Canada to New Jersey on Jan. 31, forcing her to take refuge in the cockpit.
“The captain of the flight stated that he warned the passengers, including Bieber, on several occasions to stop smoking marijuana,” said the report. “The captain also stated he needed to request that the passengers stop their harassing behavior toward the flight attendant and after several warnings asked the flight attendant to stay with him near the cockpit to avoid any further abuse.”
According to multiple law enforcement sources, the leased Gulfstream IV on which Bieber, his father and 10 friends traveled to Teterboro, N.J. was so full of marijuana smoke that the pilots were forced to wear oxygen masks.
On Friday, the FAA said it was “looking into allegations” that passengers aboard the aircraft “interfered with the flight crew in violation of FAA regulations.”
FAA spokesman Jim Peters said Monday the agency's Flight Standards District Office in Teterboro will do a “factfinding” investigation with no specific timetable. He said the FAA will seek to determine if anyone on the flight violated the FAA regulation that states, “No person may assault, threaten, intimidate, or interfere with a crewmember.”
After the investigation is completed, said Peters, the Flight Standards unit will present its findings to the FAA’s legal counsel, who will decide whether to recommend prosecution.
Should Bieber or any other passenger be charged and convicted, penalties are substantial. Persons found to have violated the law “shall be fined … imprisoned for not more than 20 years, or both.” Fines for unruly passengers can reach $25,000 per violation, and “one incident can result in multiple violations,” according to the FAA’s website.
Meridian Air Charter, which leased the jet, declined to comment, as did a representative of Justin Bieber.
-- Richard Esposito, Tom Winter, Jeff Rossen and Monica Alba