Travelers wait in line to check in for flights at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday in Los Angeles on Nov. 22, 2023. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
A Russian man who apparently flew from Europe to California without a passport is now facing a federal charge as a stowaway.
On Nov. 4, Sergey Ochigava arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on a Scandinavian Airlines flight from Copenhagen, Denmark, without a passport, according to a criminal complaint
filed in Los Angeles federal court Nov. 6.
When Mr. Ochigava arrived at immigration, he allegedly told a Customs and Border Protection officer that he left his passport on the plane, but no passport was found.
A search of his bags found “Russian identification cards and an Israeli identification card,” as well as “a partial photograph of a passport.”
Additionally, Los Angeles immigration officers found that Mr. Ochigava was not listed as a passenger on the flight’s manifest—though, according to the complaint, most of the plane’s flight crew noticed him, he asked for two meals, and kept changing his seat throughout the flight.
“When [Ochigava] presented himself for entry at the [Customs and Border Protections] checkpoint at LAX, officers discovered that [Ochigava] was not a listed passenger on the flight manifest ... or any other incoming international flight. [Ochigava] was unable to produce a passport or a visa to enter the United States,” the complaint states.
The stowaway was interviewed the next day by two FBI agents.
During the interview, Mr. Ochigava said he was a Russian economist who did not know where he was.
“Ochigava claimed he had not been sleeping for three days and did not understand what was going on,” the complaint stated. “Ochigava stated he might have had a plane ticket to come to the United States, but he was not sure. Ochigava did not remember how he got on the plane in Copenhagen. Ochigava also would not explain how or when he got to Copenhagen or what he was doing there. When asked how he got through security in Copenhagen, Ochigava claimed he did not remember how he went through security without a ticket.”
The FBI agents then searched Mr. Ochigava’s iPhone, which showed a photo of “television screens displaying flight information for flights flying all over the world” taken at Copenhagen’s airport.
Other photos on his iPhone consisted of screenshots from the “Maps” application showing a hostel in Kiel, Germany, and street maps from an unknown foreign city, according to the complaint.
Mr. Ochigava was charged Nov. 16 with a single federal count of stowing away on an aircraft.
He pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Dec. 5, according to court documents.
A jury trial has been tentatively set for Dec. 26.