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Former U-M Student Pleads Guilty To Plane Stowaway Charge

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LOS ANGELES (AP) – A man accused of breaching layers of airport security by using an expired boarding pass with someone else’s name to get aboard a cross-country flight pleaded guilty Tuesday to a stowaway charge.

Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, 24, entered the plea in federal court and agreed to pay Virgin America for the cost of the flight from New York to Los Angeles.

Noibi faces up to five years in prison when he is sentenced Nov. 28.

Noibi was arrested on June 29 at Los Angeles International Airport after authorities determined he was using the expired boarding passes and presenting outdated student identification.

In response to a question from U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real, Noibi acknowledged that he had been under some kind of psychiatric care in 2010.

Deputy federal public defender Carl Gunn declined to answer reporters’ questions about the psychiatric care and the outcome of the hearing.

While prosecutors did not find that terrorism applied in this case, the incident has raised questions about the effectiveness of screening procedures. Identity checks at airport security checkpoints were put into place as one of many new measures after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Investigators say Noibi boarded a flight at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on June 24 using someone else’s expired boarding pass. The Virgin America crew didn’t realize until mid-flight that an extra passenger was in a seat that was supposed to be empty.

An FBI agent interviewed Noibi upon arrival in Los Angeles but did not immediately arrest him.

An FBI affidavit said that several days later, Noibi was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport while trying to board a Delta Air Lines flight bound for Atlanta with another expired pass. Authorities say they found numerous expired boarding passes in his bag and Noibi was charged with being a stowaway on an aircraft.

Noibi told federal investigators that he was able to get through screening by presenting the expired boarding pass, University of Michigan student identification and a police report that his U.S. passport had been stolen. Noibi was enrolled at the Ann Arbor university between 2004 and 2006 as an engineering student but is not a current student.

Noibi acknowledged he did not pay for the Virgin America flight and said he had traveled to Los Angeles to recruit people for his software business, an affidavit said.

The Transportation Security Administration has said passengers are required to show a federal or state-issued photo ID to get through a checkpoint. Passengers who forget or lose their identification are allowed to fly if they provide information about their identity that can be substantiated. If cleared through that process, they can be subjected to additional screening.

Noibi has dual U.S. and Nigerian citizenship but has lived most of his life in Africa.

Noibi’s attorney has previously said his client was extremely embarrassed about the incident and that his family was a “little freaked out” by the attention the incident has received.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.

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