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TSA chief says 'serial stowaway' slipped past checkpoint during busy time at O'Hare airport

The TSA says it will study passenger flow patterns after a woman, known as a serial stowaway, managed to get past a security checkpoint. After a few tries, she was able to sneak her way on a flight to London, where she was stopped by custom agents. (Ilker Ergun/Getty Images)

The Transportation Security Administration is investigating how a woman managed to breeze past a TSA checkpoint at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago and board a flight to London without a ticket or a passport.

Marilyn Hartman, 66, of Chicago went through a TSA screening, but slipped by the first TSA checkpoint during a “very busy” time, TSA administrator David Pekoske told WBBM-TV.

How did she do it?'

Hartman, who is known to the TSA as a serial stowaway, also managed to elude “airport security agents, shuttle bus drivers, and ticketing agents,” before boarding the flight, The Guardian reported.

She did it by keeping her head down and hiding behind other passengers.

To prevent it from happening again, TSA is looking at ways to better manage the flow of passengers, Pekoske said.

“What we’re doing with that is looking at how we manage the queue from the airport waiting area into the TSA screening station to make sure we don’t provide any opportunity for a passenger to get by that person.

“It is a concern of ours that she got by the first person," he told WBBM.

How long has she done this?

Hartman, a longtime homeless woman, has been sneaking onto flights since 2009, according to The Guardian. In all, she was arrested at least 10 times over the past year for "accessing secure areas of airports in California, Minnesota, Arizona."

“These include ducking under the velvet ropes, piggybacking her way into small groups, presenting other people’s boarding passes, or simply answering “yes,” when airport staff ask leading questions such as: “Are you Maria Sandgren?” The Guardian reported.

WBBM explained how Hartman managed her latest security breach. It started at about 2 p.m. on Jan. 14 near Terminal 3.

“According to authorities, she hid her face with her hair, and while the TSA agent is checking passengers, she slipped by,” the TV station reported.

Once Hartman made it through security, she tried to get on a flight to Connecticut.

“Hartman hid behind a passenger, but when she attempted to dart down the ramp, the ticket agent stopped her and told her to sit down,” WBBM reported.

Next, Hartman was seen on security video boarding a shuttle bus to Terminal 5 at the airport. No one can explain how she got on the bus without a boarding pass and a passport. Hartman is believed to have stayed overnight at Terminal 5, the report states.

On Jan. 15, Hartman was seen on video at the British Airways gate, M12, where Flight 294 was ready to travel to London. While an agent checked passports, Hartman walked past, hid in a small room for a few seconds and then strolled down the ramp. After finding an empty seat, Hartman was on her way to London, WBBM reported.

When Hartman arrived, she was stopped by customs agents.

Were there any criminal charges?

British Airways flew Hartman back to Chicago late last week, according to published reports. She was charged with felony theft and a misdemeanor count of criminal trespassing, The Associated Press reported. Hartman's bail was set at $10,000.

She was also ordered to stay away from O'Hare and Midway airports, and to receive psychiatric treatment.

One last thing…
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