A California man who told police that the coronavirus pandemic left him afraid to fly managed to live at Chicago's O'Hare International for three months.
Aditya Singh, 36, is charged with felony criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport and misdemeanor theft after he was arrested Saturday. At a court hearing on Sunday, a judge ruled that the Orange, California, man could be released if he paid $1,000, but said that Singh was prohibited from setting foot in the airport.
As of Monday morning, Singh remained in the Cook County Jail.
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Assistant Public Defender Courtney Smallwood said Singh does not have a criminal record. She also said it was unclear why Singh, who is unemployed, came to Chicago or if he has ties to the area.
According to prosecutors, Singh went to O'Hare on Oct. 19, but was “scared to go home due to COVID.”
On Saturday, two United Airlines employees approached Singh and asked for his identification. Singh lowered his mask and showed a badge that actually belonged to an operations manager who had reported it missing on Oct. 26. The employees then called police, who took Singh into custody.
"It shows how things can slip through the cracks," transportation expert Joseph Schwieterman said. "You get an idea at the airport and can go weeks without being detected. It’s really remarkable that in this day and age and security, this occurred."
Singh told authorities the he had found the badge and said he was able to survive by getting food from other passengers.
"A lot of people no doubt look back and are embarrassed, gate agents, that probably saw this individual," Schwieterman said.
Before she granted Singh bail, Cook County Judge Susana Ortiz was clearly troubled that someone could remain in a secured area for so long at the airport without anyone noticing.
“The court finds these facts and circumstances quite shocking for the alleged period of time that this occurred,” the judge said. “Being in a secured part of the airport under a fake ID badge allegedly, based upon the need for airports to be absolutely secure so that people feel safe to travel, I do find those alleged actions do make him a danger to the community."
Singh is scheduled to return to court Jan. 27.
The Chicago Department of Aviation, which oversees the city's airports, released the following statement regarding the incident:
"CDA has no higher priority than the safety and security of our airports, which is maintained by a coordinated and multilayered law enforcement network. While this incident remains under investigation, we have been able to determine that this gentleman did not pose a security risk to the airport or to the traveling public. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners on a thorough investigation of this matter.”