- Associated Press - Thursday, June 30, 2011

WASHINGTON — A Nigerian man boarded a Virgin America airplane last week with an invalid boarding pass — making it through a federal security checkpoint where travelers must show identification and their boarding passes.

After the man, Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, got through security, the airline let him onto the plane even though his boarding pass was for a flight the day before, according to the FBI.

The identification check at airport security checkpoints was put in place as one of many new security measures after the 9/11 attacks. These federal document checkers have basic fraudulent identification training.

Mid-flight from New York to Los Angeles, a flight attendant noticed Noibi was sitting in a seat that was supposed to be vacant. Noibi showed the attendant the expired boarding pass that was in someone else’s name, and then showed him a University of Michigan identification card with his picture on it.

University of Michigan spokeswoman Kelly Cunningham said that Noibi is not a current student, but was enrolled as an engineering student at the Ann Arbor university between 2004 and 2006.

The boarding pass belonged to a man who said his boarding pass went missing from his pocket on his way to the airport June 23. Noibi boarded the plane with the expired pass the next day.

Noibi was arrested Wednesday when law enforcement officials saw him trying to board another flight and discovered he had more than 10 other expired boarding passes belonging to others in his bag.

Noibi has been charged with being a stowaway.

“We are currently working with the FBI in their investigation of how Mr. Noibi passed TSA screening and then later boarded the flight in question,” Virgin America spokeswoman Patricia Condon said. The flight crew kept Noibi under surveillance after they discovered he should not have been on the plane, and they did not think he was a security threat, she said. Noibi slept most of the flight.

Los Angeles FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller says that when the Virgin America flight crew determined the man had an invalid boarding pass, law enforcement was notified and was asked to meet the plane on arrival early Saturday at Los Angeles International Airport.

There was no immediate threat to the aircraft so the flight wasn’t diverted, Eimiller said.

FBI Agent Kevin R. Hogg met the flight and detained and questioned Noibi. “He wasn’t arrested at that time. Beyond traveling without a ticket there was no immediate threat,” Eimiller said.

“He wasn’t actually charged and arrested until yesterday morning (Wednesday). A U.S. District Court hearing Wednesday was postponed until Friday at 10:30 a.m. PDT. He’s still in custody pending that hearing,” Eimiller added.

“Every passenger that passes through security checkpoints is subject to many layers of security including thorough physical screening at the checkpoint,” Transportation Security Administration spokesman Greg Soule said. “TSA’s review of this matter indicates that the passenger went through screening.” TSA would not comment on what else happened, citing an ongoing FBI investigation.

Associated Press writers Jeff Karoub in Detroit, Jeff Wilson in Los Angeles and Ulana Ilnytzky in New York contributed to this story.

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