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Worst Passenger of the Week: Serial Airplane Voyeur Caught by His Own Camera

Worst Passenger of the Week: Serial Airplane Voyeur Caught by His Own Camera
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: Three Time Loser

It is entirely possible that a fellow passenger falsely accused singer Azaelia Banks of performing a lewd act with her boyfriend on a Stockholm Arlanda Airport (ARN) to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)-bound SAS flight. It is also possible that the crew member who arrived on the scene to investigate the resulting commotion started the interaction by randomly assaulting the celebrity passenger. The rapper told her followers that the whole ordeal was a cut and dry case of racial profiling.

“Hi SAS, I was just racially profiled and assaulted by your staff on a flight back to LA from Stockholm,” Banks wrote in a surprisingly cordial social media post. “Please contact me or my team immediately.”

Perhaps not surprisingly, SAS officials tell a much different story. The airline appears to have placed all of the blame on the famous music artist.

“A passenger’s behavior toward other passengers and flight staff caused the legal authorities to be contacted, and they were present when the aircraft landed in Los Angeles,” the flag carrier of Sweden, Norway and Denmark said in a statement. “We cannot provide any further information surrounding our passengers onboard.”

Banks should perhaps be given the benefit of the doubt, if not for a series of social media-fueled publicity stunts (which for some reason all appear to involve airline and aerospace concerns). The rapper-who-cried-wolf has previously found her self embroiled in he-said-she-said controversies involving Delta Air Lines, Aer Lingus and even SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

Honorable Mention: Sorry Honey!

It would appear that this worst passenger didn’t do anything wrong at all, but by being at the wrong place at the wrong time, this Maryland resident has given us all an unfortunate lesson about how perilous even routine encounters with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can become. The father of six was jailed for 82 days after CBP inspectors at Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport (BWI) falsely believed the jars of honey in his luggage contained drugs.

“They said I was charged with methamphetamine, so I said, ‘What is methamphetamine?’” Leon Haughton recalled to Washington, D.C. ABC-affiliate WJLA. “My kids were stressed out, my mom, everybody. They put me through hell … Even when they let me out, they didn’t reach out to me and say sorry.”

While the CBP has not offered an apology, Haughton says the agency did send a letter offering to return his seized honey, but the 46-year-old explains that he has more pressing issues on his mind right now. He claims to have lost his job, his family’s health insurance and his credit rating while behind bars. The Jamaica-born U.S. resident says he was held without bail because of a non-existent ICE detainer, despite having a green card and valid immigration status.

Although Haughton’s ordeal appears to be the result of a serious mistake on the part of inspectors, prosecutors say CBP inspectors did nothing wrong. In a statement this week, the office defended the actions of both prosecutors and arresting officers.

“A specially trained drug sniffing dog was alerted to the presence of a controlled dangerous substance and a preliminary test done by the police officers further tested positive for a controlled dangerous substance,” the spokesperson said. “The confirmatory laboratory test showed [there] was no controlled dangerous substance inside the honey.”

Third Place: You Rebel Scum!

Even though rebel forces’ use of the devices to make terroristic threats against Imperial representatives has been well-documented, passengers continue to arrive at the airport carrying souvenir soda containers made to look like replica thermal detonators. It seems that today’s air travelers have little respect for the countless lives lost a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.

There is some good news, however, for those of us who will never, ever forget the Maw Installation tragedy – the Empire is striking back, so to speak. Elite TSA forces have declared in an edict announced this week that reproductions of the powerful weapons are banned from air travelers’ carry-on items.

“Replica items are not allowed on aircraft,” TSA spokesperson Jim Gregory told The Orange County Register this week. “It could create concern that it’s the real thing.”

The Runner-Up: Freelance Bell-Hopping for Fun and Profit

A well-known hotelier is in serious trouble for a bizarre and illicit revenue-generating scheme at Memphis International Airport (MEM). Dinesh Chawla was recently profiled by The New York Times after entering a partnership with the Trump family to operate a string of Mississippi properties, but this week, the southern hospitality mogul is in the news for an entirely different undertaking. He was arrested for allegedly stealing passengers’ checked bags from the conveyor belt in the airport’s baggage claim area.

Police say that Chawla was observed loading the purloined bags into his car before returning to the terminal to catch a flight out of town. Officers report also finding several other stolen bags “containing thousands of dollars worth of items.”

Chawla was arrested after arriving at the airport on his return flight this week. According to court filings, he eventually admitted to stealing the luggage. He now faces felony charges of property theft (which is still slightly more ethical than tacking hidden “resort fees” on to hotel rates).

The Winner: Lav TV Broadcast

A passenger entered a guilty plea this week to charges he placed a video camera in the first-class lavatory of a United Airlines leaving from San Diego International Airport (SAN) to Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). It was images from the video voyeur’s own camera, which was discovered by a fellow passenger, that eventually led federal investigators to identify their suspect.

In addition to incriminating evidence of Choon Ping Lee placing the camera in the lavatory, there were also images indicating that the Malaysian national had pulled this stunt before, including recovered hidden camera footage showing what appeared to be the lavatory of an Emirates Airlines bathroom.

The 50-year-old convicted video voyeur was sentenced to two months behind bars by a federal judge this week, but immigration officials say that Lee, who was reportedly in the country working for Houston-based Halliburton, will likely be removed from the country. His former employer (which almost certainly sponsored his work visa) is said to have been instrumental in helping to identify the owner of the creepy airplane bathroom recording device.

The passenger who uncovered Lee’s perverse hobby noticed an odd blinking light when using the lavatory. She handed the source over to a cabin crew member and United Airlines security personnel later determined the device was a hidden video recorder.

 

[Featured Image: Flickr/ Alan Light]

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