Arrest In N.J. Airport Incident

Watch Video (From Nov. 7, 2001)There was a time, not so long ago, when you could carry scissors, nail files, and even a Swiss Army knife on to a plane without a second thought. Best advice these days: Leave all those things at home. AP

A Bulgarian student with a one-way ticket to South Carolina tried to pass through airport security with a pair of scissors and two boxcutters in his backpack before he was arrested on a weapons charge, authorities said.

Nikolay Volodiev Dzhonev, 21, may face federal charges, a municipal court judge said Monday.

He did not enter a plea when he appeared in Egg Harbor Township Municipal Court via video hookup from Atlantic County jail. Judge H. Robert Switzer ordered that he continue to be held on $100,000 bail.

Switzer said he was advised that federal charges might be filed later Monday. He told Dzhonev that he would be taken to the federal courthouse in Camden if that happened.

Authorities said he was a student from Bulgaria with a summer visa allowing him to work at an Atlantic City-area convenience store.

Dzhonev was the last passenger to pass through screening Sunday for a flight from Atlantic City International Airport to Myrtle Beach, S.C., Transportation Security Administration spokesman Robert Johnson said.

When his backpack went through the X-ray machine, screeners spotted the scissors and pulled him aside, he said. A search of the backpack turned up the scissors, embedded in a bar of soap, and the boxcutters hidden in a lotion bottle, Johnson said.

"The concern was there may have been some effort to conceal them," Johnson said. He said the fact that the man's one-way ticket was purchased over the Internet in August also raised suspicion.

The man told authorities he packed the items that way to keep them from damaging anything else in his backpack, Johnson said. He said he bought the Spirit Airlines ticket so he could visit a friend in South Carolina before returning to Bulgaria.

"We're proud of the fact that our screeners caught it," Johnson said. "Here's an example of the federal screeners doing their job keeping these items off the plane, giving law enforcement a chance to sort through it."

Dzhonev was held on a state charge of possession of a prohibited weapon. Switzer said the state charge would be dismissed if federal charges are filed.

At Monday's court appearance, Dzhonev, appearing serious and solemn, struggled with the language and after about five minutes asked for an interpreter. A Bulgarian language interpreter was provided by speakerphone.

Spirit Airlines spokeswoman Laura Bennett said the flight carrying 84 passengers departed on time, and the arrest did not affect operations.

Travelers were relieved a suspect had been caught, but said the incident wasn't unduly disturbing.

"I'm here to gamble and I play the odds," said Hunter Boylan, 56, of Boone, N.C., who was visiting Atlantic City for the weekend. "And the odds against being in another air disaster (after Sept. 11) are pretty good."

Atlantic City International is a small regional facility which handles about 1 million passengers a year, although totals were down last year — to about 829,000 — in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

Its main carrier is Spirit Airlines, which serves resort communities in South Carolina and Florida.


  • John Esterbrook

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