Indian-American who lived in airport for 3 months over virus fear arrested
Los Angeles, Jan 19: A 36-year-old Indian-origin man who was too scared to fly due to the coronavirus pandemic and lived undetected for nearly three months in a secure area of Chicago's international airport has been arrested, US authorities said.
Aditya Singh lives in a suburb of Los Angeles, California, was arrested on Saturday for living in a secure area at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport since October 19, the Chicago Tribune reported on Sunday.
Mr Singh has been charged with felony criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport and misdemeanour theft, the report said.
Prosecutors told a court that Mr Singh arrived at O'Hare on a flight from Los Angeles on October 19 and allegedly has lived in the airport's security zone ever since, without detection.
He was arrested after two United Airlines staff asked him to produce his identification. He showed them a badge, but it reportedly belonged to an operations manager who reported it missing in October.
He reportedly found the staff badge in the airport and was "scared to go home due to COVID", Assistant State Attorney Kathleen Hagerty said.
The airline employees called 911. Police took Singh into custody on Saturday morning in Terminal 2 near Gate F12.
Aditya Singh managed to live on handouts from other passengers, Hagerty told Cook County Judge Susana Ortiz.
The judge expressed surprise at the circumstances of the case, the report said.
"So if I understand you correctly, you're telling me that an unauthorised, non-employee individual was allegedly living within a secure part of the O''Hare airport terminal from Oct. 19, 2020, to Jan. 16, 2021, and was not detected? I want to understand you correctly," Ortiz said.
Singh lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Orange with roommates and does not have a criminal background, according to Assistant Public Defender Courtney Smallwood. She said Singh has a master's degree in hospitality and is unemployed.
Smallwood acknowledged the circumstances were unusual but noted the allegations were non-violent.
It was unclear what brought Singh to Chicago, the report said.
Singh has been barred from entering the airport if he is able to post the USD 1,000 for bail. He is due back in court on January 27.
"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," Ortiz said.
The Chicago Department of Aviation, which oversees the city's airports, said in a statement: "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 travelling public."
The US is the worst-affected country in the world with more than 23,937,000 COVID-19 infections and 397,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus tracker. The US state of California is currently witnessing a surge in infections.