Man Arrested At O'Hare After Living In Secured Area Since October
CHICAGO (CBS) -- A California man was arrested at O'Hare International Airport over the weekend after authorities discovered he had been living for three months in a secured area of the airport.
Aditya Singh, 36, of Stillwater, Oklahoma, was arrested Saturday morning at O'Hare and charged with criminal trespass to a restricted area of the airport and theft of less than $500, according to police and Cook County prosecutors.
Prosecutors said Singh had been living in a secured area at O'Hare since arriving from his hometown of Los Angeles on Oct. 19, 2020. He was found wearing an airport badge from an employee who lost it on Oct. 26. It is unclear what level clearance that badge would have afforded him or whether he ever accessed employee only security areas.
A police source said the work badge was deactivated the day it had been lost by the employee.
Two United Airlines employees discovered him and reported him to authorities in Terminal 2, near gate F12, where he had made a home between the Cinnabon and the shoe shine stand.
As far as airport security breaches go, experts say it is hard to find a comparable one.
"All levels of safety have been breached when someone can remain in a secure area for that long without being identified or challenged," said Ben Coleman, a former Federal Aviation Administration and inspector and National Transportation Board investigator.
Coleman said blame does not just fall on airport security. All employees granted security identification badges are trained to challenge anyone whose badge does not appear appropriate.
"It's a very safe system if it gets used," he said. "But it sometimes gets very lax, like most thing in society."
Singh spent 88 nights sleeping, eating and living undetected in Terminal 2. Prosecutors said passengers at O'Hare who had encountered Singh over the past three months periodically provided him with food.
A police source said Singh might have been involved in some minor theft in the airport, because a person fitting his description was seen in a Chili's kitchen area going through a money bag and a purse. Nothing was taken.
Prosecutors also told a judge Singh was afraid to fly back due to COVID fears. Singh studied for a masters degree in hospitality at Oklahoma State University but most recently was unemployed and living in suburban Los Angeles.
A police source told CBS 2's Suzanne Le Mignot that Singh was supposed to go to India, not back to California.
The police source said Singh lost a lot of weight. He got in trouble because he claimed to be an airline employee and had the deactivated badge – otherwise, he would have just been told to leave and get on a flight, the source said.
Singh appeared in court Sunday and a judge set his bond at $10,000. If he is able to post the $1,000 bail required to be released, he must be placed on electronic monitoring. He is also banned from the airport he called home.
Singh is due back in court on Jan. 27 at the Skokie Courthouse.
The Indian consulate has been contacted on Singh's behalf, the police source said.
In a statement, the Chicago Department of Aviation said it is investigating how Singh was able to live in a secured area of O'Hare for three months but has determined he did not pose a security risk to the airport or travelers.
"CDA has no higher priority than the safety and security of our airports, which is maintained by a coordinated and multilayered law enforcement network," the department said. "We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners on a thorough investigation of this matter."
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