Russian man who flew on Los Angeles flight without passport or ticket found guilty of being stowaway

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Russian man who flew on a plane from Denmark to Los Angeles in November without a passport or ticket is guilty of being a stowaway on an aircraft, a federal jury found Friday.

Sergey Vladimirovich Ochigava arrived at Los Angeles International Airport on Nov. 4 via Scandinavian Airlines flight 931 from Copenhagen. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer could not find Ochigava on the flight's manifest or any other incoming international flights, according to a complaint filed Nov. 6 in Los Angeles federal court.

After a three-day trial, the court's jury found Ochigava, 46, guilty of one count of being a stowaway on an aircraft. He faces a maximum sentence of five years in federal prison when he is sentenced Feb. 5, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a statement.

Prosecutors presented evidence at the trial that showed Ochigava entered a terminal at Copenhagen Airport in Denmark without a boarding pass by tailgating an unsuspecting passenger through a security turnstile. The next day, he boarded the plane undetected, prosecutors said.

The flight crew told investigators that during the flight’s departure, Ochigava was in a seat that was supposed to be unoccupied. After departure, he kept wandering around the plane, switching seats and trying to talk to other passengers, who ignored him, according to the complaint.

He also ate “two meals during each meal service, and at one point attempted to eat the chocolate that belonged to members of the cabin crew,” the complaint said.

Customs and Border Protection officers searched his bag and found what “appeared to be Russian identification cards and an Israeli identification card,” federal officials said in court documents. They also found in his phone a photograph that partially showed a passport containing his name, date of birth and a passport number but not his photograph, they said.

Ochigava “gave false and misleading information about his travel to the United States, including initially telling CBP that he left his U.S. passport on the airplane,” according to the complaint, which said he “claimed he had not been sleeping for three days and did not understand what was going on.”