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Nigerian stowaway had at least 10 boarding passes, none in his name, officials say

June 30, 2011 | 10:11 am

Nigerian flies N.Y. to L.A. with old boarding pass not in his name

A Nigerian stowaway who flew from New York to Los Angeles with an expired boarding pass in someone else's name was carrying at least 10 different boarding passes, according to the FBI agent who took him into custody.

Not one of the boarding passes was in the name of Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, who acknowledged sneaking aboard a Virgin America flight on June 23, officials said. He was arrested as he tried to board a Delta flight from Los Angeles to Atlanta on Wednesday.

Click to read the FBI's affadavit "I searched his two bags, which contained over 10 boarding passes in various individuals' names," FBI Special Agent Kevin R. Hogg wrote in an affidavit filed in connection with the case.

Document: Read the FBI affidavit

Officials are not alleging that Noibi was involved in any crime other than being a stowaway, which can be charged as a felony carrying a prison term of up to five years, according to the affidavit.

The FBI became involved on the morning of June 25, when it "received information from a dispatch operator at the Los Angeles Department of Airports Police and the captain of Virgin America Flight 415," Hogg wrote.

Noibi had traveled to Los Angeles on June 24 aboard the Virgin America nonstop flight, officials said.

"Noibi was not on the flight manifest ... which I know from my training and experience is mandated for each paying passenger on every U.S. domestic flight," Hogg wrote. 

Hogg wrote that he learned through interviews that after the flight took off, Noibi was noticed in a seat that was supposed to be empty.  A flight attendant questioned him and Noibi "produced a boarding pass and ticket for the day before and not in his name," the agent wrote, adding that the attendant alerted the captain, who directed that Noibi be asked for additional identification.

Noibi initially hesitated but then produced identification "apparently showing his true name," Hogg wrote.

The identification was a student ID from the University of Michigan, and the captain, identified as Joseph Groff, noted that the names did not match, according to the affidavit.

Representatives of Virgin America could not be reached for comment Thursday morning, but the FBI agent noted that, based on his interviews, "Virgin America would not consent to allow a passenger to fly without payment or other bona fide form of compensation, and that Noibi had not paid for his transit on Flight 415. Nor did Virgin America have any record of anyone paying for Noibi's travel."

Investigators determined that Noibi had used a boarding pass belonging to man identified in the affidavit as M.D.

"M.D. told me that he did print a boarding pass at his home," Hogg wrote. "M.D. said he folded the boarding pass in fourths and put it in his back pocket. M.D. took the subway to the airport. When he arrived at JFK Airport, he discovered he no longer had that boarding pass in his pocket."

M.D., who said he did not know Noibi, obtained a replacement boarding pass, according to the affidavit.

The affidavit does not explain why Noibi was not detained on his arrival in Los Angeles. Instead, investigators apprehended him on Wednesday when they said he tried to board Delta Airlines Flight 46 to Atlanta. Noibi had apparently made it through airport security again, having spent Tuesday night in the airport after passing through security, officials said. He was arrested at the departure gate.

The Transportation Security Administration, which conducts passenger screenings, issued the following statement:

"Every passenger that passes through security checkpoints is subject to many layers of security including thorough physical screening at the checkpoint. TSA's review of this matter indicates that the passenger went through screening. It is important to note that this passenger was subject to the same physical screening at the checkpoint as other passengers. TSA cannot comment further on the specifics of the case given the ongoing FBI investigation."

At the Delta gate, Noibi tried again to use an expired boarding pass, saying he had missed his flight of the previous day, the same ruse that had worked before, officials said.

Noibi said he had been told he could "just go to the gate," according to the affidavit. "The Delta agent told Noibi 'no' twice and Noibi kept trying to hand her the boarding pass."

When confronted by agents, the affidavit stated, Noibi "acknowledged that he did not pay for the Virgin America flight." He claimed that he traveled to Los Angeles "to recruit people for his software business." He also noted that he had no money on him and knew no one in Los Angeles.

According to the affidavit, he said he was able to get through passenger screening by "obtaining" a seat pass and displaying his University of Michigan identification as well as a police report that his passport had been stolen. 

Noibi is in custody in Los Angeles. Officials said he told agents he was planning a trip to Nigeria around July 7 and then intended to return to the United States on Sept. 9, and that he had already made the reservation with Virgin Atlantic.


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-- Howard Blume and Andrew Blankstein

Photo: LAX at night. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times