A Russian man has been found guilty of being a stowaway on an aircraft after he flew from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Los Angeles International Airport without a ticket, passport or visa in November.
Sergey Vladimirovich Ochigava has been in federal custody since bewildering LAX Customs and Border Protection checkpoint personnel when he arrived via a Scandinavian Airlines flight that had no record of him being a passenger — and neither did any other flight manifest, according to the FBI's criminal complaint.
A three-day trial later revealed that the 46-year-old had "tailgated an unsuspecting passenger through a security turnstile" at the Copenhagen Airport on Nov. 3, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Central District of California said. The next day, he went through the boarding gate and onto the flight to Los Angeles undetected and without a boarding pass.
The Scandinavian Airlines flight crew said Ochigava had originally sat in a seat that was supposed to be unoccupied. After takeoff, the complaint states that many crew members watched Ochigava continuously wander around the plane, changing seats and talking to passengers who ignored him. The staff also said he asked for two meals during each meal service and tried to take food that belonged to cabin crew members.
Upon landing, Ochigava gave "false and misleading information about his travel" to the U.S., including saying he left his passport on the plane, the U.S. Attorney's Office said. Customs officers searching his bags had found Russian and Israeli identification cards — where he holds passports — but neither permitted his travel to America. There was also no record of Ochigava in the U.S. State Department's database of visa applications, the complaint said.
On Nov. 5, Ochigava told the FBI he hadn't slept for three days, didn't understand what was happening, wasn't sure if he had a plane ticket to the U.S., didn't remember how he got through security or on the plane and didn't know why he was in Copenhagen to begin with.
Though Ochigava pleaded not guilty to the stowaway charge, the jury's decision on Jan. 26 means he'll face a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison. His sentencing is set for Feb. 5.
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