Aditya Singh allegedly stayed in secure area of O’Hare international airport after becoming too afraid to return home to California
A California man was arrested after living in a secure part of O’Hare international airport in Chicago for three months because he was scared of coronavirus. Photograph: Kamil Krzaczyński/Reuters
The Guardian-Helen Sullivan
A man has been living in a secure section of Chicago’s international airport for three months, apparently telling police he was too afraid of coronavirus to return home to Los Angeles, according to multiple reports.
The 36-year-old man, Californian Aditya Singh, was arrested this weekend and charged with criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport, a felony, and theft, a misdemeanour, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Prosecutors said on Sunday that, according to police, the man arrived on a flight from Los Angeles to O’Hare international airport on 19 October. Nearly three months later, on Saturday afternoon, Singh was approached by two United Airlines employees who asked to see identification. Singh allegedly showed them an airport ID badge that had been reported missing by its owner, an airport operations manager, on 26 October.
Assistant state attorney Kathleen Hagerty told Cook County judge Susana Ortiz that other passengers had been giving food to Singh, who does not have a criminal background. Hagerty said Singh had found the badge in the airport and was “scared to go home due to Covid”.
Ortiz reportedly told the court: “You’re telling me that an unauthorised, non-employee individual was allegedly living within a secure part of the O’Hare airport terminal from 10 October, 2020, to 16 January, 2021, and was not detected? I want to understand you correctly.”
After finding Singh, the United Airlines employees called 911. Police took him into custody on Saturday morning.
Singh has a master’s degree in hospitality, is unemployed and lives with roommates in Orange, Los Angeles, according to assistant public defender Courtney Smallwood.
“The court finds these facts and circumstances quite shocking for the alleged period of time that this occurred,” said Ortiz. “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’s bail was set at $1,000. Should he be able to post bail, he is barred from entering the airport.
The Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) said in a statement: “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.”