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Russian man who flew from Denmark to LAX without a ticket or passport is found guilty of being a stowaway, officials say

By Tina Burnside and Paradise Afshar, CNN

(CNN) — A Russian man who flew from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Los Angeles International Airport without a ticket, passport or visa has been found guilty of being a stowaway on an aircraft, authorities said Friday.

Sergey Vladimirovich Ochigava, 46, was convicted by a jury and faces a statutory maximum sentence of five years in federal prison, according to a news release from the US Attorney’s Office in the Central District of California.

The case unfolded last November after Ochigava arrived at LAX on a Scandinavian Airlines flight, according to the attorney’s office.

Ochigava got to the Customs and Border Protection checkpoint at LAX and “gave false and misleading” information, including initially telling CBP that he left his passport on the airplane, according to the complaint.

CBP officers were unable to find Ochigava’s name on the flight manifest for the Scandinavian Airlines flight or any other international incoming flight, according to the criminal complaint, which says Ochigava didn’t have a passport or visa to enter the United States.

Ochigava – who held both Russian and Israeli passports – was arraigned on December 5 and pleaded not guilty to the charges, according to the attorney’s office.

CNN has reached out to an attorney for Ochigava for comment.

Man told FBI he wasn’t sure how he got on the plane

Evidence presented during the three-day jury trial showed that on November 3, 2023, Ochigava “tailgated an unsuspecting passenger through a security turnstile at Copenhagen Airport in Denmark so that he could enter one of the airport’s terminals without a boarding pass,” the US Attorneys Office said.

The following day, Ochigava passed through the boarding gate undetected and stowed away aboard the Scandinavian Airlines flight to Los Angeles, the release stated.

Scandinavian Airlines flight crew members said most of them noticed Ochigava “because he wandered around the plane and kept changing his seat. 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,” according to the complaint.

The flight crew did not see Ochigava’s boarding pass but remembered him sitting in a seat that was supposed to be unoccupied, according to the complaint. While the flight crew did head counts by section to make sure the aircraft was balanced for takeoff and landing, the numbers were not tallied, the complaint states.

When interviewed by the FBI through a Russian-speaking CBP officer on November 5, Ochigava, who said he had a PhD in economics and marketing and worked in Russia as an economist “a long time ago,” said he hadn’t slept for three days, didn’t understand what was happening, wasn’t sure if he had a plane ticket to come to the United States, wasn’t sure how he got on the plane or why he was in Copenhagen, the complaint states.

Ochigava, who has been in federal custody since his arrest at LAX on November 4, is scheduled to be sentenced in federal court on February 5.

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