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‘Serial Stowaway' Who Has Illegally Boarded Flights For Years Again Arrested At O’Hare Airport

“The next thing I know, I get into the TSA line and TSA lets me through,” Marilyn Hartman said while describing her history of illegally boarding airplanes.

A woman who became known to law enforcement as a "serial stowaway" following several airport arrests and years on the TSA trespass list was apprehended at O’Hare International Airport this week.

Marilyn Hartman, 69, was taken into custody on Tuesday on criminal trespass charges at the Chicago airport after her ankle monitor malfunctioned, CBS Chicago reported. Hartman, who had been on probation and staying at a halfway house following previous arrests, was tracked to O’Hare after Cook County investigators noticed her GPS tracker had stopped relaying her movements. 

Cook County authorities tipped off Chicago police, who later coordinated with the Transportation Security Administration and located Hartman in Terminal 2 at O’Hare shortly before 2 p.m. She’s been arrested at the airport numerous times.

Hartman’s arrest came two days after she gave a local news station an exclusive telephone interview dissecting her life and legacy of illegal jetting around the globe. 

Hartman, who estimates she’s jumped aboard at least 30 flights without paying for a seat, said she began illicitly boarding airliners in Europe nearly two decades ago. Her photo has even been plastered at TSA checkpoints at airports around the country. 

"The first time I was able to to get through I flew to Copenhagen," Hartman told CBS2. "The second time I flew into Paris."

Domestically, she’s flown through a number of American cities, including Seattle, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Phoenix, and Jacksonville, she said. For years, she avoided any scrutiny from law enforcement.

In 2014, Hartman was arrested in California for illegally boarding a flight between San Jose and Los Angeles. She was issued a warning and released without being charged in that incident. Later, she was busted in Florida for flying ticketless from Minnesota. The court that heard that case ultimately found her to not be mentally competent to face trial. Hartman, who told CBS2 she is bi-polar, previously rebuffed the basis of that ruling.

"I know they keep emphasizing the mental illness," she told CBS2. “Law enforcement would like to have that in place. But umm … no, I'm pretty good. I don't mind if people say: ‘She's a nut.’ Because when I look at it objectively, that's how I see it, is craziness. I purposely remained a mystery, because of the crazy factor. It was like something out of a movie."

Police have referred to her as a “serial stowaway” and “habitual stowaway,” as well as a “high-security risk,” over the years. She was put on a TSA trespass list in 2015.

In 2018, Hartman snuck past security at O’Hare and onto a British Airways flight to London — a flight with a ticket price of $3,428 — but was arrested when the plane touched down at Heathrow Airport. Hart was flown back to Illinois, where she faced theft and trespass charges. She pleaded guilty and was slapped with an 18-month probationary sentence. 

“I got by them, this is the thing that is so crazy, by following someone they would be carrying like a blue bag," Hartman described. "And the next thing I know, I get into the TSA line and TSA lets me through, and they think I’m with the guy with the blue bag."

The following year, however, Hartman was again arrested for burglary, criminal trespass, and violating the condition of her probation, according to CBS2.

In March 2020, Hartman was released from county lock-up after she was assaulted in jail. After years of legal battles, she said she regrets pestering law enforcement and airport TSA agents. 

"It was not my intention to make their jobs more difficult,” she told the station. 

Hartman has been charged with one count of escape after her arrest this week, according to the Cook County State's Attorney's Office. She is scheduled to appear in court for a bail hearing on March 18 at 11 a.m., online jail records show.

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