Nigerian stowaway pleads not guilty in Los Angeles federal court

A Virgin America plane waits at JFK International Airport in New York. Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi is charged with stowing away on a Virgin America flight from JFK to LAX on June 25, 2011.
A Virgin America plane waits at JFK International Airport in New York. Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi is charged with stowing away on a Virgin America flight from JFK to LAX on June 25, 2011. Stephen Chernin/Getty Images

A Nigerian American man pleaded not guilty today to charges he stowed away on a flight from New York to Los Angeles and later attempted to use a fake identity to enter a secure area at Los Angeles International Airport.

Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, 24, entered the plea in Los Angeles federal court to federal charges that could send him to prison for 15 years. He is being held without bond in federal custody in Los Angeles.

Noibi is charged with being a stowaway on a flight from New York that landed in Los Angeles on June 25. The indictment also charges that, four days later, he attempted to get past security at LAX by fraud or false pretense with the intent of sneaking aboard another flight.

Noibi's June 29 arrest at LAX triggered national headlines because of the ease with which he apparently got around several layers of airport security, using expired boarding passes with different names, and without any photo identification.

In denying bail for Noibi on July 1, U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael R. Wilner said the defendant appeared to be a flight risk and a potential danger to the community.

The judge also said there was confusion about Noibi's true identity and residence.

"I'm not sure I understand what's going on here," Wilner said, adding that he could not set bond because of an "absence of information" about the defendant, who apparently last lived in Chicago and holds dual citizenship in the United States and Nigeria.

A Facebook profile appearing to belong to Noibi describes him as an African missionary and a frequent flier.

Noibi was allegedly caught June 24 using an outdated boarding pass with someone else's name on it to get on a Virgin America flight from JFK Airport to LAX. The flight crew became suspicious of Noibi during the flight, and he was questioned on the ground in Los Angeles but released.

On June 29, he allegedly tried to do the same thing again. This time, it was on a Delta flight to Atlanta, but he was never able to get on a plane, according to authorities, who said they foundĀ in his possession about 15 boarding passes issued to other people.

At the detention hearing, federal public defense attorney Carl Gunn said his client was "embarrassed" by the publicity surrounding the case. He said the accusations against his client amounted to little more than "theft of an airplane flight" and insisted that Noibi is not "an anti-social character who is going to flee" if released on bond.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Edward Alon argued that the defendant had said he had plans to return to Nigeria, and, if he is allowed to do so, chances of him coming back to a Los Angeles courtroom if ordered are "slim."

"It's not even clear where the defendant lives," Alon told Wilner.

If convicted of the two felony charges in the indictment, Noibi faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a $500,000 fine.

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