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FBI: Stowaway slips onto cross-country flight

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Stowaway slips onto cross-country flight
  • NEW: Rep. King seeks TSA report to Congress on the security breach
  • TSA says an officer "did not identify" that the passenger lacked proper travel documents
  • The TSA officers involved are under review, an official says
  • Virgin America says its crew may have missed an alert about Noibi's boarding pass

(CNN) -- Authorities have charged a man with being a stowaway after he allegedly took a flight from New York to Los Angeles, even though he didn't have a proper boarding pass and was not on the flight manifest.

It wasn't until after Virgin America Flight 415 took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday that the airline discovered the man, identified as Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, wasn't supposed to be on the flight, according to an FBI affidavit.

The flight crew became aware of him when two passengers complained about his odor, FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller said.

He was seated toward the front of the plane, in seat 3E, according to the affidavit.

But authorities did not arrest Noibi on Friday. They arrested him this week, on Wednesday, when he returned to Los Angeles International Airport and tried to fraudulently board a Delta flight bound for Atlanta, according to the FBI. Officials found he was carrying numerous boarding passes, none in his name, the FBI said.

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Eimiller said the FBI did detain Noibi when the flight from New York landed in Los Angeles. Agents investigated to see if he or his luggage posed any immediate threat. They then released him, Eimiller said.

The FBI is not saying what investigative steps it may have taken in the following days, nor whether it knew Noibi would appear for the Delta flight. The FBI affidavit says an agent was at the Delta departure gate when Noibi arrived.

"We are investigating his motivation, and whether it was anything beyond not wanting to pay for a ticket," Eimiller said.

Authorities are also looking to see whether Noibi has used aliases or multiple addresses, she said.

Noibi appeared in court Wednesday, where his case was continued. He is expected back in U.S. District Court on Friday, Eimiller said.

A law enforcement official told CNN there is nothing at this point to indicate terrorism in the case.

However, the incident has raised questions about airline security and how someone could get through security and board a plane without a valid ticket and proper documentation.

Transportation Security Administration spokesman Greg Soule issued a statement saying, "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."

Disciplinary action for the TSA officers involved is under review and at a minimum, the officers will receive remedial training, a TSA official speaking on the condition of anonymity told CNN.

In an updated statement Thursday, the agency said its "initial review of this matter indicates the officer reviewing the passenger's travel documents did not identify that the passenger was traveling with improper travel documents."

Rep. Peter King, R-New York, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter Thursday to TSA Director John Pistole asking for a briefing by July 8 "on the immediate measures TSA is taking to address these recent failures and any disciplinary action being taken against the travel document checker" at Kennedy airport.

King also called for an audit of the performance by all personnel who check travel documents, adding that almost a decade after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, "failures of this kind should be a thing of the distant past."

A Virgin America spokeswoman said the airline "maintains security and other screening systems in place to prevent such an occurrence; however, in this case it appears staff may have missed an alert when the passenger presented a boarding pass from a prior flight."

After discovering that Noibi should not have been on the flight, the crew kept him "under surveillance, but at no time felt there was any threat to the security of the flight," the statement said, adding that the man slept for most of the flight.

"We take security matters very seriously and are reviewing our training to ensure that this anomaly does not occur again," spokeswoman Patricia Condon said.

Noibi is from Nigeria and is a U.S. citizen, Eimiller said. Public records show he is 24 years old.

When flying to Los Angeles last week, Noibi was questioned by a flight attendant. He produced a boarding pass from a different date that was not in his name, FBI Special Agent Kevin Hogg said in the affidavit.

The man whose name was on the boarding pass told Hogg that his boarding pass had disappeared from his back pocket after he took the subway to the airport last Thursday, the day before the flight Noibi was on, according to the affidavit.

It was not clear how Noibi got to the gate for the flight at JFK.

Noibi said he has a U.S. passport that had been stolen and that he had his Nigerian passport at home, Hogg wrote in the affidavit.

Federal law states that being a stowaway on board a flight is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

A flight attendant noticed that Noibi was "occupying a seat that the other attendants said was supposed to be empty," the affidavit says. When the attendant, Satoshi Saito, asked to see his boarding pass, Noibi responded that it was in his bag in an overhead bin, the affidavit said.

After the bag was retrieved, Noibi reached in and handed Saito a boarding pass, which had a different date. Noibi said he had missed the flight the day before.

Saito then brought the boarding pass to the captain, who instructed Saito to request further ID.

"At that point, Noibi did not want to talk with Saito and was hesitant. Eventually Noibi produced a University of Michigan identification card with his photo and his full name. Saito took the identification card to the captain, who observed that the names did not match and the date was wrong on the boarding pass. The flight crew noted that Noibi was not on the flight manifest."

It is not clear what Noibi did for several days in Los Angeles, but he later told authorities he was recruiting people for his software business.

The University of Michigan website lists someone by that name as affiliated with an electrical engineering program. University spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said Noibi was enrolled at the College of Engineering from 2004 through the fall of 2006, but is not a current student, and there is no record of his graduation.

Cunningham said she could not comment on the circumstances of his leaving the university, nor whether he had ever had problems while at the university.

The university lists an e-mail address for Noibi. A message from CNN to that address Thursday morning was not immediately returned.

A page on the website LinkedIn for someone with Noibi's name lists him as "president, CEO and co-founder" of a company and links to its website. The site says the company is in Lagos, Nigeria.

A man who answered the phone listed for the company and gave his name only as "Timi" said Noibi does some consulting for the company.

The LinkedIn page also links to his Facebook account. A message sent to that account was not immediately returned.

On Wednesday, Hogg wrote in his affidavit, he was with an officer from Customs and Border Protection when Noibi approached the Delta departure gate counter at LAX for a flight to Atlanta. Noibi showed a Delta agent "a portion of a green boarding pass," but the agent told him the ticket was for the previous day and was not a valid boarding pass for the flight.

Noibi insisted that he had been told he could go to the gate for the flight, the affidavit said.

When Hogg approached Noibi and read him his Miranda rights, Noibi acknowledged that he had not paid for his flight to Los Angeles.

He also said he spent the night at LAX in the secure portion of the airport, the affidavit said. "Noibi claimed he was able to go through passenger screening by obtaining a seat pass and displaying his University of Michigan identification and a police report that his passport had been stolen."

Authorities found he had two boarding passes in his pocket and more than 10 in his two bags. "Noibi did not have any boarding passes in his own name," the affidavit said.

FBI spokeswoman Eimiller said the FBI has not determined how he came into possession of the boarding passes.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve, Josh Levs, Susan Candiotti, Carol Cratty, and Diane Ruggiero contributed to this report.