By Jason Kandel
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Nigerian-American man pleaded not guilty on Monday to sneaking onto a commercial airline flight in a case that revealed an apparent lapse in security screening at one of the nation's busiest airports.
Olajide Oluwaseun Noibi, 24, is accused of slipping onto an overnight Virgin America flight on June 24-25 from New York to Los Angeles without paying, using a day-old ticket and boarding pass from another traveler.
He was arrested at Los Angeles International Airport on June 29 as he tried to board a Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta with another outdated boarding pass, according to authorities and court documents filed in the case.
Authorities who searched his bags at the time found more than 10 boarding passes in other individuals' names, the FBI said in an affidavit.
The U.S. Transportation Security Administration confirmed Noibi had somehow cleared airport security screening before getting onto the Virgin America plane at John F. Kennedy International Airport on the night of June 24.
Noibi told the FBI he managed to get through security with the expired boarding pass, his University of Michigan identification card and a police report that his passport had been stolen.
During his arraignment in federal court in Los Angeles, Noibi pleaded not guilty to one count of being an airline stowaway and one of attempting to use false pretenses to enter a secure airport area. If convicted of both charges, he faces a sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
Shackled and wearing a black skull cap and white prison jumpsuit, Noibi appeared subdued during the hearing. He said little, except to answer "yes" to various procedural questions put to him by U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Abrams.
At a separate hearing later in the day, U.S. District Judge Manuel Real scheduled the case for trial on August 30. Noibi remains in federal detention without bond.
Authorities have said Noibi's precise motives were unclear, but Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Los Angeles, said on Monday that prosecutors have "made no allegations of terrorism" against the suspect.
FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller added: "There's no evidence that he planned to victimize anyone beyond the alleged fraud of the airline."
Noibi told federal agents who questioned him that he was traveling to recruit people for his software business, the FBI said in its affidavit.
Eimiller said Noibi was born in Iowa to Nigerian parents studying abroad and holds dual U.S.-Nigerian citizenship. She said he spent a good part of his boyhood in Nigeria but attended college in the United States.
According to the FBI affidavit, Noibi first aroused suspicion on the Virgin America plane when flight attendants found him in a seat that was supposed to be empty. Eimiller said crew members initially were alerted to Noibi by other passengers who complained about his strong body odor.
When his name did not appear on the passenger manifest, the flight crew alerted authorities on the ground they had a stowaway aboard, the FBI said.
Federal agents met the plane when it arrived the morning of June 25 at Los Angeles, and Noibi was detained for questioning. But the FBI released him "pending further investigation" after no "physical threat" was found, Eimiller said.
Noibi was arrested four days later at the Los Angeles airport as he was trying to board the Delta flight. He was indicted July 8 on both federal charges.
(Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Jerry Norton)