A Nigerian-American man pleaded guilty on Tuesday to stowing away on a commercial airline flight from New York to Los Angeles in an incident that revealed an apparent lapse in airport security.
Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, 24, pleaded guilty in US District Court in Los Angeles to one count of stowing away on a vessel or aircraft. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a USD$250,000 fine.
Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, a separate count of using a fake identity to enter a secure area at Los Angeles Airport was dropped.
Prosecutors say Noibi slipped onto an overnight Virgin America flight on June 24-25 from New York to Los Angeles without paying, using a day-old ticket and boarding pass from another traveler.
He was arrested at Los Angeles airport on June 29 as he tried to board a Delta Air Lines flight to Atlanta with another outdated boarding pass, authorities and court documents said.
Authorities who searched his bags at the time found more than 10 boarding passes in other individuals' names, the FBI said in an affidavit.
The US Transportation Security Administration confirmed Noibi had somehow cleared airport security screening before getting onto the Virgin America plane at John F. Kennedy Airport.
Noibi told the FBI he made it through security with the expired boarding pass, his University of Michigan identification card and a police report that his passport had been stolen.
Authorities have said Noibi's precise motives were unclear, but prosecutors made no allegations of terrorism.
Noibi told federal agents who questioned him that he was traveling to recruit people for his software business, the FBI said in its affidavit.
According to the FBI affidavit, Noibi first attracted suspicion on the Virgin America plane when flight attendants found him in a seat that was supposed to be empty.
An FBI spokeswoman has said the crew were alerted to Noibi by other passengers who complained about his strong body odor.
When his name did not appear on the passenger manifest, the flight crew alerted authorities on the ground they had a stowaway on board, the FBI said.
Federal agents met the plane when it arrived the morning of June 25 at Los Angeles, and Noibi was detained for questioning. But the FBI released him pending further investigation after no "physical threat" was found, the FBI said.
Noibi was arrested four days later at Los Angeles airport as he was trying to board the Delta flight. He was indicted July 8 on both federal charges.