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Stowaway with Russian ID flew from Denmark to LAX without no passport or ticket, court document shows


A Russian-speaking stowaway managed to fly from Denmark to Los Angeles without a passport, visa or plane ticket last month, according to a criminal complaint filed Monday.

Sergey Vladimirovich Ochigava arrived at LAX at 1 p.m. on Nov. 4, the complaint said. But at the Customs and Border Protection checkpoint, officers discovered he was not listed as a passenger on on Scandinavian Airlines flight SK 931 from Copenhagen, or any other flight.

“When questioned, Ochigava gave false and misleading information about his travel to the United States, including initially telling CBP that he left his passport on the airplane,” the affidavit said.

The suspect said he was confused, had not slept for three days and can’t remember how he boarded a plane without a ticket, boarding pass or passport.

The complaint, filed with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California by FBI Special Agent Caroline A. Walling, said Ochigava committed the offense of being a stowaway on an aircraft, a crime that carries a potential jail sentence of up to 5 years.

When questioned by CBP officers, his bag was searched and found to contain Russian ID cards and an Israeli ID card, but no passport.

Officers found a partial picture of a passport on the suspect’s phone, showing his name, date of birth and passport number, but not his passport photograph. The complaint did not say whether he was a Russian or Israeli citizen, or a joint national.

Flight crew noticed Ochigava walking around the plane and changing his seat, the complaint said.  “In addition, he asked for two meals during each meal service, and at one point attempted to eat the chocolate that belonged to members of the cabin crew,” it said.

The crew did not ask to see his boarding pass but noted that the seat he at first took was listed as unoccupied. The flight crew did headcounts for their individual sections as normal, but the criminal complaint said this was just to make sure the plane was balanced for takeoff and landing — they did not tally numbers across the whole flight.

Some crew noticed that Ochigava was attempting to talk to people around him, “but most of the passengers ignored him,” the complaint said.

Multiple searches could not find him in the CBP database, which contains a list of everyone who is booked on a flight to the U.S. One CBP officer noted they had never before had a passenger make it to the border without being listed in the CBP system.

When interviewed by the FBI with a Russian interpreter, Ochigava said he was confused and “did not understand what was going on,” the complaint said. He said he might have a plane ticket to the U.S. but wasn’t sure and could not remember how he boarded the plane in Copenhagen nor how he got through airport security without a passport, boarding pass or ticket.

He said he had a PhD in economics and marketing and had previously worked as an economist in Russia.

His phone contained a Maps app screenshot showing a hostel in Kiel, a city in northern Germany. A warrant has been granted to seize and search the black iPhone SE.

Stowaways making it to the U.S. are exceptionally rare and some have done so by clinging to a plane’s landing gear in freezing conditions. In 2021 a 26-year-old man from Guatemala was found in a landing gear compartment at Miami International Airport.

Last year, a 22-year-old man survived an 11-hour flight from Nairobi, Kenya, to Amsterdam, Netherlands, also by hiding in the landing gear compartment.

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