No passport or ticket: How a woman evaded airport security and flew to London

With neither a ticket nor a passport, Marilyn Hartman slipped into Chicago O’Hare International Airport last week, sneaked onto a British Airways flight and traveled to London, where she was apprehended by customs officials, the Chicago Police Department said in a news release.

How did she do it? By hiding in plain sight.

Hartman, 66, of Grayslake, Illinois, about 50 miles north of Chicago, entered O’Hare on Jan. 14, police said.

Airport surveillance video showed her moving through O’Hare without a boarding pass or passport, officials said.

First, she walked past two Transportation Security Administration officers while they were checking the boarding passes of other passengers, Tandra R. Simonton, a spokeswoman for the Cook County State’s Attorney, said in a phone interview Sunday.

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“She hid her face with her hair and walked past the officers without presenting proper documentation to board a flight,” Simonton said.

After Hartman joined the security line and was screened by the TSA, she tried to board a flight to Connecticut around 2 p.m., attempting to conceal herself behind a passenger who was waiting in line, Simonton said. As Hartman tried to dart past the passenger, the gate agent stopped her, and directed her to sit down, Simonton said.

Prosecutors said Hartman stayed overnight at the airport, and the next day she approached a shuttle bus headed for the international gate.

“This shuttle requires a passport and plane ticket to board,” Simonton said, but despite having neither document, Hartman boarded the shuttle.

According to police, she then got on a flight that landed at Heathrow Airport in London, where she was detained by British customs officials and denied entry into the United Kingdom. When she arrived in the United States on Thursday, she was charged with one felony count of theft and one misdemeanor for trespassing.

Hartman’s court-appointed lawyer could not be reached for comment Sunday.

At a hearing Saturday, Judge Stephanie K. Miller ordered Hartman released on her own recognizance on the condition that she receive psychiatric help, stay away from O’Hare and British Airways and wear an ankle monitor until her case is concluded, The Chicago Tribune reported.

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Hartman was at the Cook County Jail because she did not have a place to stay in Cook County, which was a requirement for the electronic monitoring, Sophia Ansari, press secretary for the Cook County Sheriff’s Office, said.

Hartman has been convicted of misdemeanors for criminal trespassing at O’Hare four times in recent years, Simonton said, but this is her first felony charge.

In addition to her arrests in Illinois, Hartman has also been arrested in Arizona, California and Florida. During a 2016 hearing in Chicago, prosecutors said she had been stopped by the police on airport properties a dozen times in different parts of the country, The Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Prosecutors in California in 2015 reported an even higher number, saying she had attempted to breach airport security at least 18 times, according to San Francisco magazine.

Her episode last week was not the first time she stowed away on a plane.

In 2014, she boarded a Southwest Airlines flight at the Mineta San Jose International Airport, in San Jose, California, without a ticket, and was arrested when she landed at the Los Angeles International Airport, KNTV reported.

In 2015, she told investigators that she had boarded a plane in Minnesota without a ticket and flew to Jacksonville, Florida, according to an arrest report obtained by NBC News.

That year she spoke to WMAQ, a television station in Chicago, and said it was time to stop trespassing.

But in February 2016, despite wearing a device that tracked her movements, she went back to O’Hare, NBC News reported. She was arrested, and Judge William Raines ordered her to spend six months at a mental health treatment center.

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“There’s no more feeling sorry for you,” Raines said, according to The Chicago Tribune. “I think you’re addicted to the attention.”

The TSA is investigating the latest episode involving Hartman, it said in a statement.

The Chicago Department of Aviation, which manages O’Hare, emphasized that Hartman was not a danger to others.

“At no time was any passenger or visitor at risk,” Lauren Huffman, the department’s spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We are working with our law enforcement partners to support a comprehensive and thorough investigation, while continuing to maintain the highest levels of security at O’Hare Airport.”