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Worst Passenger of the Week: Professional Poker Player Strikes Again

Worst Passenger of the Week: Professional Poker Player Strikes Again
Jeff Edwards

Every Friday, FlyerTalk looks back at the week’s most charming individuals. While there are always plenty of contenders for our Worst Passenger of the Week column, only one lucky flyer can take home the glory.

Honorable Mention: The Road to Damnation

There is a good reason airports are generally named after long-dead heroes rather than living legends (as long as our idols and luminaries are still alive, they still have the opportunity to do something embarrassing and disqualifying). This week, public officials in Columbia, South Carolina are learning this rule of thumb the hard way after the state’s former DOT commissioner, John Hardee was convicted of obstruction of justice in a federal bribery investigation and later accused of soliciting a prostitute.

Although the Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) is not named after the disgraced former bureaucrat, the impressive John Hardee Airport Expressway which opened to vehicles in 2004 earned its moniker as a tribute to Hardee for his work in securing funding for the project. DOT officials say they are now looking into whether or not they have the authority to rename the now infamous road to the airport.

Interestingly, there doesn’t appear to have been a huge outcry to rename the expressway after Hardee entered a guilty plea to federal charges, but only after the 72-year-old was caught up in a prostitution sting, did politicians vow to start changing maps and street signs post haste. The embarrassing irony of the situation was not likely lost on lawmakers. South Carolina has been exceptionally progressive when preventing sex trafficking, with all airports in the state now required to conspicuously post informational posters on the subject- including the one located at the end of the John Hardee Expressway.

Third Place: Blowing-Up on Instagram

The fact that a teenager who threatened on social media to “blow up” a plane he was traveling aboard wasn’t arrested until days after the incident (and long after the flight landed safely) makes it seem likely that his posts were nothing more than empty threats and teenage bravado. A judge who heard initial arguments in the case this week was not entirely convinced, however.

Hector Fonseca was arrested some time after allegedly making the threats on Snapchat while boarding a Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) to Guatemala City La Aurora International Airport (GUA)-bound flight. The 17-year-old is accused of posting a selfie with the caption “blow this shit up” along with a bomb and a smiley face emoji. He later updated the post with the words, “time to blow up the plane” from the aircraft on August 3rd.

Although Snapchat officials quickly alerted the FBI about the disturbing posts, it wasn’t until Fonseca’s return flight landed this week, that he was taken into custody. At an initial bail hearing, the judge had some questions, namely, whether or not the search of the defendant’s home revealed any bomb-making materials on hand. The prosecutor was unprepared for the question, suggesting that rather than investigating, authorities assumed this was just a case of “a kid popping-off.”

“I’d like to know if he has any bomb-making ability,” Magistrate Lisa Porter replied. “Maybe get a search warrant and go over there and check that shit out. That’s what I’d do. I don’t know for sure. It makes me nervous.”

The Runner-Up: Phoenix Sky Harbor Open House

A passenger at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) took an unauthorized behind-the-scenes tour of the facility with a final stop on the tarmac after triggering the emergency slide of an unoccupied aircraft. Police say Zackaria Mohamud Mudasir was arrested on charges of “criminal trespassing, criminal damage” and “failure to provide a true and lawful name.”

The 39-year-old is accused of making his way to the ramp by way of a closed jetway in the early morning hours Tuesday after accessing an empty United Airlines plane and making use of the emergency exit. In addition to offering a number of changing reasons as to why he was found in a restricted area of the airport, the trespassing passenger is also said to have provided a false name to arresting officers. It wasn’t until Mudasir was taken into custody that police discovered that the emergency slide on the parked passenger plane had been deployed.

PHX police should be fairly good at wrangling wayward passengers by now. These sorts of bizarre incidents are starting to become something close to routine at the airport. In July, a passenger brazenly attempted to force his way past TSA security checkpoint screeners. In April, a flyer aboard an arriving American Airlines flight sprayed his seat mate with an unidentified liquid before opening an emergency door and jumping to the tarmac.

The Winner: Dealt Yet Another Losing Hand

This week, former professional poker star turned alleged airport scam artist, Michael Borovetz joined the exclusive list of two-time Worst Passenger of the Week winners – a feat previously only achieved by serial stowaway Marilyn Hartman. By the time we were first introduced to Borovetz when he was arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) in April of last year, police say he had already been plying his illicit trade for a number of years in airports across the country including, in at least one other documented case, Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT) where he fleeced as many as five passengers to the tune of $200 each.

According to authorities, the onetime World Series of Poker Champion had been reduced to a shameful con which involved approaching passengers in airport terminals with a practiced sob story about a canceled flight and having no money for a hotel room for the night. In some cases, Borovetz approached his marks in baggage claim, but he has also been accused of purchasing fully refundable airline tickets in order to con passengers in the secure areas of the terminal as well.

Now, it appears Borovetz is up to his old tricks again. Police say the 44-year-old was arrested after approaching passengers at Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) with “a sad story in an attempt to get money, while promising to pay it back.” He was taken into custody during a layover at DTW while he was flying between Seattle–Tacoma International Airport (SEA) and Miami International Airport (MIA) this week.

Police in Detroit have identified a number of potential victims, but say there may be even more out there. Authorities are asking anyone who thinks they may have been scammed by Borovetz to call Sergeant Ken Neidermeier with the Detroit Wayne County Airport Police Department at (734) 942-5212.


[Featured Image: Shutterstock]

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