CHICAGO — A California man who police said claimed to be too afraid to fly due to COVID-19 hid out for three months in a secured area of O’Hare International Airport until his weekend arrest, prosecutors said Sunday.
Aditya Singh, 36, is charged with felony criminal trespass to a restricted area of an airport and misdemeanor theft.
In bond court Sunday, prosecutors said Singh arrived at O’Hare on a flight from Los Angeles on Oct. 19 and allegedly has lived in the airport’s security zone ever since, without detection.
Cook County Judge Susana Ortiz reacted incredulously Sunday after a prosecutor detailed the allegations.
“So if I understand you correctly,” Ortiz said, “you’re telling me that an unauthorized, nonemployee 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.”
Early Saturday afternoon, two United Airlines employees approached Singh and asked to see his identification. Assistant State’s Attorney Kathleen Hagerty said Singh lowered his face mask and showed them an airport ID badge that he was wearing around his neck.
The badge actually belonged to an operations manager who had reported it missing Oct. 26. The employees called 911. Police took Singh into custody Saturday morning in Terminal 2 near Gate F12.
Hagerty said Singh reportedly found the badge in the airport and was “scared to go home due to COVID.” She told the judge other passengers were giving him food.
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 he has a master’s degree in hospitality and is unemployed.
Smallwood acknowledged the circumstances were unusual but noted the allegations were nonviolent. It was unclear what brought Singh to Chicago and if he has any ties to the area.
As a condition of bail, Ortiz barred Singh from stepping foot in the airport again if he is able to post the $1,000 he needs for his release. He is due back in court Jan. 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.”
By Christy Gutowski