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U.S. Military Confirms Predator Drone Missing Over Syrian; U.S. Authorities: Air Force Veteran Tried to Join ISIS; Israeli Exit Polls Election Too Close To Call; Police Raid Robert Durst's Houston Home. Aired 7-8:00p ET

Aired March 17, 2015 - 19:00   ET



[19:00:10] ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, the U.S. military confirms it has lost contact with a predator drone over Syria. Was it shot down? This as we're learning new information about a U.S. Air Force veteran charged trying to join ISIS.

Plus, the Israeli election too close to call at this moment is Benjamin Netanyahu about to lose. Late breaking developments on that.

And new developments in the case of real estate heir Robert Durst. Could he be linked to another woman's disappearance? Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight. Breaking news, the U.S. military says a top secret American drone is missing. This is the same type of drone used in the fight against ISIS and Syrian forces tonight claim they shot down the drone near the port of Latakia in Western Syria. That's about two hours from Aleppo.

Barbara Starr begins our coverage OUTFRONT live at the Pentagon. Barbara, what do we know about this incident? Obviously, significant if the U.S. drone indeed has been shot down.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Erin. Right now the Pentagon is not saying very much other than the military did lose contact with his predator drone. They do not know at this point. They say they cannot corroborate the Syrian reports that it was shot down. There are some pictures emerging on Syrian State TV showing something down on the ground in the middle of the night. But nothing identifiable at this point. But where the Syrians are saying it won't down over the port City of Latakia, very interesting. This of course on the Mediterranean Coast. This is a port that the Russians often pull into. They unload weapon supplies and other gear. Could this drone have been overhead keeping an eye on what the Russians might have been doing in that port or was there another target it was keeping surveillance on? There had been air strikes in Aleppo recently against the so-called Karazhan group. That's a top target for the United States. Al Qaeda type operatives have sworn to attack the U.S. according to the Pentagon. So, a lot of activity in the region but nobody confirming how the drone went down or what the target was that it was trying to keep surveillance on -- Erin. BURNETT: Pretty interesting though as you say, what could have been

going on at that port, why that drone indeed have been there.

STARR: All right. Barbara Starr, thank you very much. We're following that story, we also are following breaking news right here in New York where disturbing details are emerging tonight about an Air Force veteran who is now in custody accused of trying to join ISIS. So, according to federal prosecutors in an affidavit that I have here, this New Jersey man you're looking at was arrested after traveling to Turkey trying to enter Syria. He's a mechanic who worked on airplanes belonging to the military as well as a major American airline -- American Airlines in fact. Tonight, investigators say they have uncovered several troubling photographs on his cell phone that include sensitive areas on planes, commercial planes.

Pamela Brown begins our coverage OUTFRONT.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A U.S. Air Force veteran from New Jersey stopped in Turkey for allegedly trying to join ISIS in Syria according to just unsealed court documents. Forty seven-year-old Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh flew from Egypt to Turkey to attempt to enter Syria on January 10th according to federal authorities. But Turkish officials stopped him at the airport. Pugh who served four years as an Air Force mechanic was carrying an iPod, four USB drives and a cellphone. The search of his laptop found evidence of repeated internet searches for information on borders controlled by Islamic State and a chart of crossing points between Turkey and Syria. Pugh was denied entry into Syria when he refused to allow officials to search his electronics. According to work documents Pugh worked on airplane maintenance for years in the Air Force from 1986 to 1990. Pugh received training in the installation and maintenance of aircraft engines and weapons systems. Afterwards Pugh worked as an airplane mechanic for American Airlines as well as other private aviation companies in the U.S. and the Middle East.

DAN CALDWELL, LEGISLATIVE DIRECTOR, CONCERNED VETERANS FOR AMERICA: His experience in the private aviation sector disturbs me the most because he would have had access to private American and European made aircraft that he could have learned the security weak points on those aircraft where he could stash weapons, where he could stash bombs, how you could get pass security.

BROWN: Pugh landed on the FBI's radar more than a decade ago when an American Airlines employee tipped off the agency he was sympathizing with Bin Laden. According to the complaint, Pugh had converted to Islam and become more radical during that time.


And according to law enforcement officials I've been speaking with this cases, also unique because this is the first case that the U.S. military, a veteran allegedly wanting to link up with ISIS. Officials are saying that the big concern here is that he could have shared some of his expertise from being in the military and from being an aviation mechanic with groups like ISIS overseas. His attorney says that he plans to plead not guilty when he appears before a judge tomorrow in New York -- Erin.

[19:05:13] BURNETT: All right. We will see him tomorrow. Pamela, thank you. And OUTFRONT now, our terrorism analyst Paul Cruikshank and retired Air Force Colonel Cedric Leighton.

All right. Good to have both of you with us. Paul, you're sitting with me so let me ask you about something Pamela is reporting on. We see right here in the affidavit they found on his Samsung cell phone pictures of the area under seat backs and bathrooms, airplane bathrooms. Very strange pictures to have and you think frankly very significant.

PAUL CRUIKSHANK, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, very, very warning. It raises all sorts of alarm bells. Was he taking these pictures because he wanted to sort of plant some kind of explosive device under a seat at some point? Was he doing research they wanted to give to a terrorist group at some point? We don't know the answers to those questions. But a lot of alarm bells were seen as some past plots these areas being used by terrorist groups. The underwear plot, the underwear bombing plot back in 2009. Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab constructed part of his bomb in an airplane toilet and went back to his seat and tried to detonate it. We also saw in the mid '90s a big plot over the Pacific to bomb up to 11 American airliners. The plan in that plot were to put devices underneath aircraft seats.

BURNETT: So, exactly, the sorts of things you would think of when you see pictures like this. Colonel Leighton, you also think those photos are very significant?

COL. CEDRIC LEIGHTON, U.S. AIR FORCE (RET.): Well, I do, Erin. And I think like just Paul said, they are significant because they point to what he was thinking about doing. I believe he was looking at, you know, his affinity for airliners. He had been around airliners and airplanes for basically his entire career, his adult career. And whether it was in the Air Force or in American Airlines or then in the Middle East with other companies, he was looking for ways in which you could exploit vulnerabilities. So, this is significant in that sense and I think a very dangerous possibility of what could have happened here.

BURNETT: And Tairod had knowledge, Colonel. I mean, he worked as a mechanic for the Air Force of course and for American Airlines itself, one of biggest airlines in the world. How frightening is it that he had those mechanic jobs, all these access? Even frankly because when I look at those affidavit it says that back in 2001, the FBI got a tip from a co-workers at American Airlines saying this guy supports the bombings of U.S. embassies and he supports Osama bin Laden, but yet, you know, he still went about his business. He was still able to work as an airline mechanic.

LEIGHTON: Which is remarkable. This is where all organizations really need to look at the insider threat. What kinds of people do they have working for them? Who really have views that are no part of what the organization is looking for? In the Air Force it's pretty easy. You know, you either support the United States or you don't. So, it's very easy to discern those kinds of things. In private industry, it's a bit more tricky.


LEIGHTON: But when you have that situation, you really do need to pay attention to what people are saying and act accordingly. And that's what I think happened in this case. We didn't really look at this and there was a real problem with actually following up on this kind of information.

BURNETT: But Paul, that's what's frightening here. Because when you think about people who have access to planes every single day. A recent CNN investigation in this. We found that the vast majority of airport employees including mechanics like this man Tairod do not go through daily security screens. It just don't, so.

CRUIKSHANK: A little concern clearly about this. I mean, the last thing you want is someone with this kind of profile working at an airport. And we saw a recent case with an American ISIS fighter who was killed in Syria last summer. He previously been working to clean aircraft at Minneapolis International Airport.

BURNETT: And so this is the Holy Grail for them, right? People who have access to commercial aircraft.

CRUIKSHANK: This is absolutely the Holy Grail for groups like ISIS and al Qaeda that they can get someone on the inside. The concern with this guy, if he got into Syria to linked up with the group, he could have been dispatched back, get one of this old kind of jobs back, be on the inside with his knowledge of vulnerabilities of systems, he could have tinkered perhaps with some of the maintenance to challenge the airworthiness of aircraft or even put a device in the aircraft systems. Very, very concerning.

BURNETT: It's terrifying in that regard. And Colonel Leighton, it is also terrifying because this is the first time we've heard of a veteran allegedly trying to join ISIS. Is this changed the game? These are people that okayed, that fine, they should be going through more screening hypothetically but these are the people, people who don't second guess. They don't question them once you're in the U.S. military. People just assume this is where you stand.

LEIGHTON: That's right. And that's one of the key difficulties. These people can be anywhere. And it's very disappointing on a personal level that a veteran, especially an Air Force veteran because of my background is in this situation. But it really points to the fact that these people can be anywhere and you have to be very, very vigilant. Anybody who is working in the aviation industry, any part of the transportation sector, they really need to pay attention to who's working for them because this is critical now. And it becomes very important that we realized what this people are thinking, how are their attitudes are. And why they're acting in the way they're acting.

[19:10:22] BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to both of you. Some pretty concerning and sobering news. And obviously, as we said, he'll be appearing tomorrow here in New York.

And next, breaking news, out of Israel tonight, the election too close to call. Benjamin Netanyahu speaking, is he about to lose?

Plus, breaking news, Houston police currently raiding the home of real estate heir Robert Durst according to our affiliate. We'll have that development for you in a few moments. And of course, he's charged with murder. There's now questions though about the disappearance of another woman.





BURNETT: And the United Airlines flight turns around after this passenger allegedly yells Jihad, tries to storm the cockpit. This right here in the -- of the United States. A passenger who was sitting right there is OUTFRONT.


[19:14:57] BURNETT: Breaking news at this moment, results now coming in from the Israeli election. It is still too close to call. The Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu could lose his job to man whose views align with President Obama. Netanyahu and Obama of course have been at dramatic odds over the proposed nuclear deal with Iran.

Our Elise Labott is live at Netanyahu's election headquarters in Tel Aviv tonight. And Elise, after 2:00 in the morning where you are, there's still a lot of action. There's celebrating going on. This is a major election for Israel and the United States.

ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Erin. You know, a day ago Prime Minister Netanyahu (INAUDIBLE) out of a job. But in the last 24th and 48 hours, it's really been reenergizing the right wing voters. Trying very loud back here, trying to get that right wing vote out, trying to them to tell them come out and vote. The staff narrowed that gap with parts of the union. And he seems to be neck and neck. He's claiming victory tonight. (INAUDIBLE).

BURNETT: Elise, thank you very much. Elise as we said is reporting live from Tel Aviv. You could hear the background noise. There is a lot of celebration going on despite the fact that it's very unclear at this hour whether Benjamin Netanyahu will keep his job and whether he will be as strong as he was before.

OUTFRONT now, the former Arkansas governor and 2008 republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, he's been to Israel more than three dozen times. He met with the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during this election. So, intimately familiar with this entire situation. Governor, good to have you with me. You said Netanyahu was quote, "risking his political life" when he made that speech to Congress with the standing ovation, everyone in this nation saw it. In today's election, he likely lost some of his power. Did Netanyahu do this damage to himself?

MIKE HUCKABEE (R), FORMER ARKANSAS MAYOR: I think he truly believed that Israel's existence was really on the line. He did not do it because it was good for him politically, Erin. I mean, it was really a political disaster to come for him to come to the United States against the wishes of the Obama administration not that Israelis support Obama but they don't want to do anything to risk the relationship. And they thought that that could possibly do it. So, it was risky on his part. I think it was the act of a Churchill, or Chamberlain, it was the act of a statesman, not a politician. And it was a gutsy move. And I think tonight we're going to see that ultimately he will prevail. It's going to be close but I think he is going to prevail and have the prime minister seat.

BURNETT: And even if he does, of course he's going to have to work with the coalition. He's going to have to work with others in the way that he didn't even perhaps before. His challenger Isaac Herzog of course is more liberal than Netanyahu. And he's made a big part of his platform repairing the damaged relationship with President Obama and the United States. But Governor, when it comes to the big issue here, of course Iran, as you mentioned, Herzog says his position is essentially the same as Netanyahu. There's no daylight there. My question to you is, would Herzog victory or a more powerful Herzog have diminished Benjamin Netanyahu still be good for America?

HUCKABEE: Well, it's good for America, because it makes sure that, it's not just that Iran, but all of the players in the gulf area understand that Israel is looking first and foremost at their security. I am absolutely confident that not only is there celebration in Israel, among people who care about national security, there's celebration in Saudi Arabia, in Jordan, Egypt, the Emirates. These nations, the last thing they want, the last thing they can tolerate would be Iran having nuclear capacity. So, this is going to maybe very unpopular in the White House, it's very popular among the moderate Muslim nations throughout the Middle East.

BURNETT: But I guess the bottom-line is, if Benjamin Netanyahu has to share significant amount of power with his rival, Isaac Herzog who is more liberal, who is a more center left candidate, you're okay with that in the sense you don't think the Iran policy will change?

[19:19:06] HUCKABEE: Well, I sure hope not because it would be disastrous for Israel and Erin, it would be disastrous for the United States. Israel isn't the canary in the coal mine. Israel isn't the ultimate target of Iran. They have made very clear they want to wipe them off the face of the map and they've also made it clear that Tehran wants to destroy the United States. So the ultimate target is they've said repeatedly, Israel is the little Satan, the United States is the great Satan. So, as long as Israel is led by people who clearly understand that the Iranians are the number one state sponsor of terrorism in the world, that their financing of Hamas and Hezbollah has resulted in the deaths, the murderous deaths of many Americans and other people throughout the world then I think the world is safer place. If this election could tip the other way in a more liberal approach, I don't think that that's a good sign for the Middle East or for the United States.

BURNETT: One thing that happened today was pretty disturbing and Netanyahu said his campaign was in danger and he came out and spoke. I don't know if you heard this but basically his quote was, "The leftists are bringing Arabs in huge amounts to polls using buses." And he did that to rally his base. Get the conservatives to come out and vote. And one Israeli lawmaker responded and saying, that was basically the equivalent of an American leader saying, our ruler is in endanger go out and vote, because the blacks are coming out to vote. Watch out for the blacks. Did Netanyahu's comments crossed the line? Was that racist what he said?

HUCKABEE: I don't think it was racist. I think it was a realistic view that there was a sincere, concerted effort on the part of B-15, the activist group, the big question in the Senate is investigating. Did they get any taxpayer money from the United States? If they did, that's going to be a significant issue. But the tactics, I don't think had anything to do with race. It just had to do with trying to preserve and protect Israel and keep its place without bending and bowing to the Iranians and put themselves in a serious place of jeopardy.

BURNETT: So, you're okay with how he phrased it. The leftist are bringing Arabs in huge amounts to polls using buses.

HUCKABEE: Erin, I've got enough problems trying to parse my own language, I'm certainly not going to try to correct the Prime Minister of Israel. He's been a longtime friend. I think he was speaking very candidly and very honestly. And one thing I've always admired about the Israelis, their politics make ours look tame. So, they are pretty straight forward. They have to be. Their lives are on the line. So, I'll cut him some slack on that one.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Governor. And we appreciate your time tonight.

And OUTFRONT next, the breaking news, investigators raiding the Houston home of real estate heir Robert Durst linked to at least three murders.

New questions now surrounding the pastor who asked his congregation to help him buy a $65 million private jet. We first brought to you that story yesterday. Tonight special report, it turns out it's not the first time that megachurch has collected megabucks. Where have they gone?


[19:26:02] BURNETT: Breaking news tonight on the real estate heir linked at least three murders. At this hour, police are searching Robert Durst's home in Houston. This is according to our affiliate KTRK and this search which is I said is going on at this instant comes as Durst's attorney blames his arrest on the HBO documentary about his life. The attorney says his client is in custody because of ratings not facts. Now, the show's final episode featured Durst caught on tape when he was in the bathroom. So, you just heard the audio saying he quote, "killed them all." But as Durst was leaving court today facing a first-degree charge, you could see him right there, that's today. All smiles. Happy as a clam.

Jean Casarez is OUTFRONT. And Jean, what can you tell us about what we know is now going on at this instant, that raid of Durst's home in Houston?

JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're learning that it's happening right now. Our affiliate KTRK in Houston is saying that that raid which would be an execution of a search warrant is happening in Texas as we speak at the home of Robert Durst. Now, here in Los Angeles, prosecutors want him to come here to face charges of first- degree murder. The defense wants him to come right here to Los Angeles to face charges of first-degree murder. But Durst tonight sits in a jail cell in Louisiana.


(voice-over): He may be facing murder charges in California but real estate millionaire Robert Durst was in a New Orleans courtroom today facing drug and weapon charges one day after waiving his right to fight extradition to Los Angeles where he's been charged with the execution style murder of his longtime friend Susan Berman. The 71- year-old Durst was shackled, dressed in an orange jump suit sitting in an isolated glass booth. At one point even smiling and laughing to himself. Prosecutors say a.38 caliber handgun and marijuana was found in his hotel room after he was arrested on a warrant for Berman's murder.

DICK DEGUERIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR ROBERT DURST: Bob Durst did not kill Susan Berman, he doesn't know who did.

CASAREZ: Durst attorney Dick Deguerin successfully defended him in Texas in 2003.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Robert Durst not guilty.

CASAREZ: When he was acquitted of murdering his neighbor Morris Black. Durst admitted he shot and dismembered him but claimed self- defense. Susan Berman was shot to death on or about December 23rd, 2000.

DEGUERIN: My concern is that the warrant that was issued in California was issued because of a television show and not because of facts.

CASAREZ: That television show is an HBO documentary about Durst's bizarre life. In the finale Durst was confronted about Berman's murder. She was killed just before investigators planned to question her about the 1982 disappearance of Durst's wife. Visibly rattle, Durst stepped away to the bathroom. His microphone still live.

ROBERT DURST, REAL ESTATE HEIR: What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course. CASAREZ: The same weekend the finale aired Durst was arrested.

Authorities believe he was preparing to flee to Cuba.

DEGUERIN: We want to contest the basis for his arrest because I think it's not based on facts. It's based on ratings.


CASAREZ: And so today in Louisiana the prosecutor asked for and got a detention hearing in Louisiana set for Monday. The defense wants to come straight to Los Angeles with this detention hearing and the issue would be bail. Of course not realistic but constitutionally it is allowed for Robert Durst to ask for that. The question is though, how important is this Louisiana case? It may become very important because these are felonies, a felon in possession of a weapon. It is 10 to 20 years in prison under Louisiana law and a weapon and a controlled substance is five to ten.

So, Erin, the fact is that if there would an acquittal right here in Los Angeles, that murder case, it actually could be Louisiana that would be responsible for putting Robert Durst in prison for plausibly the rest of his life -- Erin.

[19:30:14] BURNETT: All right. Jean Casarez, thank you very much. And, you know, as Robert Durst is sitting there in a jail cell, police are now investigating something totally above and beyond. They are looking at whether the millionaire could actually be linked to other unsolved murders.

Dan Simon is OUTFRONT.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORREPSONDENT: Take a look at this composite sketch. By any objective measure, there was a striking resemblance and that is why police at one time looked into Durst's possible involvement in the disappearance of a young woman in Eureka, California, 20 miles from where the wealthy real estate heir had a home.

Sixteen-year-old Karen Mitchell went missing in November, 1997. She was on her way to work at a daycare center. According to local news reports at the time, she was last seen leaving into a light blue car that she may have gotten into. A witness gave police a description of the man behind the wheel, which yielded the sketch.

MATT BIRKBECK, AUTHOR, "A DEADLY SECRET": What's also intriguing is that you'll see in it, he wears these wide rim glasses. He was wearing those kind of glasses back in the day. It's also in the composite.

SIMON: Author and investigative reporter Matt Birkbeck wrote, "A Deadly Secret", a book chronicling Robert Durst. He believes investigators did not do enough to chase down clues linking Durst to the teen's disappearance, given his home's proximity to Eureka, and Birkbeck says law enforcement showed him credit card records indicating he was in the small town of 25,000 the day Mitchell disappeared.

BIRKBECK: Durst apparently knew Karen Mitchell. Karen had volunteered at a homeless center in Eureka, which Durst frequented, which she had a habit of doing in these different cities. In addition, Mitchell's aunt ran a shoe store in a mall in Eureka, and Durst had gone there several time, one time dressed as a woman.

SIMON: The lead investigator from the Eureka police department, David Parish, retired several years ago and we were unable to reach him. But he was quoted in a 2003 newspaper article saying, "He's a lead we're following, and with all the information we've learned about him, I'm not fully comfortable that I can eliminate him from our investigation at this point."

The Eureka police chief is now speaking out about the case.

CHIEF ANDREW MILLS, EUREKA POLICE DEPARTMETN: We're certainly interested in any information that may or may not come out of interviews with Mr. Durst. If information comes to us that allows us to further our investigation, we will certainly take the opportunity to do that.


SIMON: Karen Mitchell's parents divorced when she was little. She was raised by an aunt and uncle. Efforts to reach them were unsuccessful. But one can only imagine their heightened anxiety as this 18-year-old case comes back to the fore front along with renewed speculation about whether Robert Durst may have been involved -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Dan.

Pretty incredible when you think about this. They're now looking at these other cold cases.

OUTFRONT tonight, criminologist Casey Jordan.

Casey, what makes someone like Robert Durst kill? And I'll remind our viewers, this is someone where he admitted, even though he said it was accidental that the death happened, he admitted to dismembering somebody.



JORDAN: He just said that it was in self-defense.

So, when you ask what makes someone like Robert Durst kill, I have to point out, I don't know if we have anybody quite like Robert Durst. You have to remember, his baseline is being born into this incredibly wealthy Manhattan real estate family, so that he didn't grow up like a normal child did.

And if you watch the documentary or study him as a person, he's always held grudges against his family because he, of course, didn't grow up like a normal child but also, he did not become head CEO of his family's company. He's always been left to his own devices to make his own way, been given a little position in the company for appearances sake, but he's just been his own person.

BURNETT: And it also perhaps enabled him to hide if indeed he was responsible for the murders they were alleging and possibly even others, as you just heard that investigators say they're looking into.

I want to show that image of Robert Durst today that was Jean was showing. This is today.


BURNETT: After all that has happened, he's going to jail. There he is in the backseat in his jail outfit smiling, looking happy, looking self-satisfied like a Cheshire cat.

When you see that, what do you think?

JORDAN: His facial expressions are often inappropriate. But if we want to go there, this man has been Teflon coated his entire life. Nothing bad sticks to Robert Durst. His wife disappeared, nothing came to it. He actually killed his neighbor, admitted it, claimed self-defense --

BURNETT: And he still was fine.

JORDAN: -- and was found not guilty. Absolutely.


JORDAN: And, in fact, then was a suspect in Susan Berman's murder for quite a while. He claims, he goes, "Well, I was in California", but it's a big state. It's almost like he thumbs his nose at his questioners.


[19:35:00] JORDAN: You can't catch me.

BURNETT: He also, in addition, to obviously having whatever sort of mental issues he may have was someone that would use disguises. At one point, he posed as a mute woman.

JORDAN: Correct.

BURNETT: He's admitted to this.

He used the name of someone from high school he knew, but he posed as a woman.

He has spent time living with homeless. He's cross dressed before.

When you take all that into account and you add that into the profile of this man who may be a serial killer --

JORDAN: Right.

BURNETT: -- what do you think?

JORDAN: He's showing you how smart he is, because he feels like no one ever respected him for being intelligent.

Now, we know he's been diagnosed with Asperger's, somewhere on the autism spectrum. And you feel that he spent his entire life feeling discounted. And he wants you to know, basically, I think -- I can commit murder and get away with it. In fact, I've proved it once.

BURNETT: I get the last laugh.

JORDAN: And maybe I get to prove it to you a third time with the case of Susan Berman.

BURNETT: Thank you very much. As we continue to follow that case and see what the charges will bring in Los Angeles.

OUTFRONT next, the $2.3 million home, Bentleys, Rolls Royces, even a $23,000 toilet -- does that sound like the life and times of a pastor? Someone who preaches to his flock about Jesus?

And terrifying moments in the air: a man allegedly charging the cockpit screaming jihad. I'm going to talk to someone sitting right next to where this happened on a United Airlines jet.

We'll be right back.


[19:40:20] BURNETT: More questions tonight surrounding megachurch pastor and televangelist Creflo Dollar.

So, he launched a fundraising campaign. He wanted to raise money to buy a $65 million private jet, the best of the best in private jet. He actually had a six-minute video trying to get people to give him this money.

And it turns out this is not the first time his fundraising has been called into question.

Martin Savidge is OUTFRONT tonight with a look into the pastor's wealth and his multimillion dollar ministry.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Every Sunday, the Reverend Creflo Dollar packs them in, his 8,500-seat church outside Atlanta. The pews are filled and so are the donation plates.

REV. CREFLO DOLLAR, PASTOR AND TELEVANGELIST: The word of God is the gateway to the world of wealth.

SAVIDGE: The man who's last name literally means money in the United States often suggests to his 30,000 parishioners the more they give, the more God will deliver financial blessings so them.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Which is the Christian gospel turned on its head, turned upside down, and it's to honor Creflo Dollar, not so much about (INAUDIBLE)

SAVIDGE: Despite his critics, Dollar's popularity and wealth have continued to grow. All that revenue is tax exempt, with little or no one to know how much he has or how he spends it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What that means is that the church, he doesn't have to give financial information to anybody. And so, therefore, he doesn't.

SAVIDGE: But there are ways to get a glimpse of some of that wealth from where else, the heavens.

This is a satellite view of Dollar's Georgia home worth more than $2.3 million. These New York records show Dollar and his wife sold their Manhattan condo for $3.7 million and that's not all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bentleys, Rolls Royces, corporate jets, $23,000 commodes.

SAVIDGE: In 2007, the lavish spending even caught the attention of the U.S. Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just think about a $23,000 commode. A lot of money going down the toilet.

SAVIDGE: The Senate Finance Committee launched an investigation into the financial practices of Dollar and five other televangelists, saying it was so taxpayers, quote, "should be assured that their donations are being used for the tax-exempt purposes of the organizations," unquote. All of the televangelists objected.

But by piecing together what little information the Senate committee did have, it concluded in 2006, World Changers Church, which has numerous branches, received $69 million in contributions in Atlanta alone.

Speaking to CNN in 2007, Dollar denied using church money for personal gain.

DOLLAR: It's a miscalculated assumption that those things were purchased with church's money. I purchased over 100 cars for people in my congregation, homes for people in the congregation.

SAVIDGE: In 2010, the Senate committee eventually gave up on any regulatory changes.

And now, five years later, Dollar is looking to fly higher than ever.


BURNETT: Martin, this is pretty incredible. Let me just first start with this. A lot of people say, this guy's name is Creflo Dollar and he's trying to raise $65 million jet. This is a late night TV skit.

Is his name really Creflo Dollar?

SAVIDGE: You know what? It is a most convenient name. That's for certain. There are some who say it's not that his real name is Michael Smith. However, if you confront Creflo Dollar about that, he will say no, that is just urban legend. By the way, he also points out there is oversight for his expenditures. There's a board of directors for the church and other church officials who have to approve anything that's done.

Cynics would say that's a bit like the fox guarding the chicken coop.

BURNETT: I mean, and I know -- you know, you're talking about 2007, $69 million. He's trying to raise $65 million for a jet. But if he's raising $69 million years ago, in just one year, from one city, he says I bought 100 cars. I did 100 cars at $25,000, that's $2.5 million. There's a lot of money that's unaccounted for.

SAVIDGE: There is a great deal of money. Without any IRS filings that he has to do, he does not have to account for it. And $69 million, keep in mind, Erin, was one year, a long time ago and also just in Atlanta. There are many more branches of this church and that would apply that was a lot more money.

BURNETT: There's a lot more.

All right. Marty, thank you very much.

And OUTFRONT next, midair nightmare. Passenger allegedly runs up the aisle, storming the cockpit, screaming jihad and, quote, "the plane is going to crash." I'm going to speak to a woman who have sitting right there when he was tackled.

And on a much lighter note tonight.

[19:45:00] Jeanne Moos proving you don't need to understand sign language to get the message.


BURNETT: A Denver-bound United Airlines flight had to turn around because a passenger rushed the cockpit screaming jihad, according to a government official, and then warned the plane was going to crash. Passengers jumped in and tackled the man. You can see him being pinned to the ground.





(END VIDEO CLIP) BURNETT: As this is happening on the plane, obviously, a terrifying thing.

Here is how the pilot described it to air traffic controllers.


PILOT: He ran forward towards the cockpit and he is being restrained by other passengers. The cockpit is secure and we would just like to return to the airport and have the authorities meet him.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT tonight, Donna Tellam. She was a passenger on the flight. She joins me now live from Denver.

And, Donna, I know you were sitting in the front of the plane, right where this happened. Just after take off, this man tried to storm the cockpit. What did you see happened?

[19:50:02] DONNA TELLAM, PASSENGER WHO WITNESSED MID-FLIGHT INCIDENT: Basically, I was just looking at my phone, playing the game, waiting for them to say that I could use my computer.

All of a sudden, a man came screaming down the aisle and he stopped right next to me and he was flailing his arms and saying that the plane wasn't going fast enough, that it was going to go down, that we were all going to die, screaming and yelling. And within seconds, the two gentlemen from behind me jumped up and grabbed him and threw him to the floor.

BURNETT: And, Donna, I mean, you're very calm as you talk about there. But at that moment when that happened, the man says the plane isn't going fast enough, it is going down, he's yelling about jihad and the cargo in the compartment of the plane -- I mean, were you terrified?

TELLAM: I was terrified but I was more afraid that somebody was going to get hurt by this man that he was going to hit somebody or we were going to get hit in the middle of the altercation. But it was definitely something that stopped my heart. I reached over and just grabbed the man's arm next to me. I didn't even know him. It was just -- it was terrifying at the time that it happened. Yes.

BURNETT: And I know you talk about two men from behind you that just jumped up and tackled him. Obviously, they were brave, they were quick thinking. The video that we have shows his face was bloodied. Did he ever stop struggling?

I mean, how did this actually go down when this is happening? I mean, there's not a lot of space here in an aisle. And you are sitting here right as this fight is happening.

TELLAM: Yes. I mean, these men were amazing. At first I thought they must be air marshals but they took him down pretty quick. One of them laid on top of him and the other one held his feet. Then, another man jumped up and helped to hold the top of him because

he never stopped struggling. He was -- he was struggling the entire time. The man on top of him told him he's going to have to get aggressive if he doesn't stop. He tried different techniques to try to calm him down and none of them worked. He was definitely, definitely out of control of himself.

BURNETT: You're saying these were two passengers. They weren't air marshals. They weren't people who worked for the airline. Obviously we hear the pilots -- you just heard them -- they were communicated, hey, passengers, restrain this man, we want to return to the airport.

Did the pilots -- did you hear anything over the overhead? And what were the flight attendants doing as passengers were fighting with this man?

TELLAM: The flight attendants were standing with their back to the cockpit doing their job, you know, keeping the cockpit safe and getting on the phone and communicating with the pilots. And then, they were yelling at the passengers to please sit down because they didn't want anyone to get into harm's way.

BURNETT: And how many people were involved in this fight? Was it really just those two passengers who were right behind you?

TELLAM: Yes, those two passengers right behind me and then a gentleman in front of me jumped up to help restrain him on the ground because he was pretty strong and so this third man jumped in to help hold down his head, as you can see in the video. He just never stopped moving or being aggressive. And the flight attendant did bring up some plastic handcuffs and put them on the man.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Donna, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us. Pretty terrifying position as she was sitting right next to this in the aisle.

OUTFRONT next, Prince Charles and Camilla -- they are coming to the colonies for a whirlwind visit. We'll preview that trip.

And Jeanne Moos with a sign language interpreter that stole the show and a lot of friends.


[19:57:29] BURNETT: Stepping off a plane in Washington just moments ago, Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, in the U.S. now for a four- day visit. Prince Charles will be meeting with President Obama and on Friday, the royal couple will head to Louisville, Kentucky. Not for the bourbon but to check out the area's sustainability efforts. Wow, I was thinking maybe it was the derby, and I realize it was the wrong weekend.

Anyway, the prince, after all, is known to farm. He talks to his plants. So, it is appropriate. It was nearly ten years ago the two first visited the United States together. Then they were newlyweds. And a new trend is sign language interpreters upstaging speakers,

politicians and even singers. You've probably seen this before, but nothing quite like what you're about to see.

Here's Jeanne Moos.


JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One Web site called him the Michael Jackson of sign language of interpreters.

He's a thriller, all right. Tommy Krangh's signing during a Swedish talent show evokes excitement, and drama, and sensuality? He even takes a little dance break from interpreting.

Gee, how does it feel to be probably the most famous sign language interpreter in the world at the moment?


MOOS: Tommy's getting rave reviews like "I have no idea what either of these men are saying, but I only have eyes for Tommy. He's brilliant."

KRANGH: I'm trying to be one with the music. Just let it go.

MOOS: The competition will send Sweden's best to the Euro Vision Song Contest. Unfortunately, the singer, Magnus Carlson, didn't win.

I wonder what Magnus thought of -- because you kind of stole the show.

KRANGH: He should be happy. His song is world famous now.

MOOS: And Magnus seems smitten writing on Facebook, "I can't even express my admiration for this guy's imagination when he interprets my song."

Tommy now joins other interpreters who became briefly famous.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't take that risk.

MOOS: Jonathan Lamberton won praise, signing with gusto for New York City's mayor, and (INAUDIBLE) got signed for captioning signs that didn't make sense at Nelson Mandela's funeral. He later said he was hallucinating, but went on to do an ad for an app. "SNL" parodied his performance.

UNIDENTIFEID MALE: I have been listening -- to what Americans are saying.

MOOS: But no's laughing at Tommy. They're smiling with him.

Tommy, by the way, isn't speaking in American sign language. He's speaking Swedish.

KRANGH: This is the sign for love. This is the heartbeat and the brain.

[20:00:04] MOOS: Put them together, what you get is heartfelt.

Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.


BURNETT: A man who loves his job.

Anderson starts now.