An American Airlines flight attendant was arrested Thursday, accused of using her cellphone to attempt to secretly record a 14-year-old girl using the restroom during a domestic flight in September, federal prosecutors said. Was.
Estes Carter Thompson III, 37, of Charlotte, N.C., a flight attendant, was arrested in Lynchburg, Virginia, and charged with attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography after investigators found evidence that he concealed Video footage of four persons was recorded. The U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Massachusetts said other girls had used the restrooms on American Airlines flights last year.
“The extremely disturbing conduct alleged here is something no parent or child should ever have to worry about while traveling,” said Joshua S. Levy, Acting U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts. said in a statement, “Mr. Thompson allegedly used his position to prey on and secretly record innocent children, including unaccompanied minors, while he was working in a vulnerable position on flights.
According to a criminal complaint, Mr. Thompson was working as a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte to Boston on September 2. About halfway through the flight, the 14-year-old girl got up to use the toilet. Main cabin, the document says.
The complaint states that she had been waiting for a short time when Mr. Thompson told her she could use the toilet in first class, which was empty. According to charging documents, before the girl entered the toilet, Mr Thompson told her the toilet seat was broken and she needed to wash her hands.
Upon going inside the restroom, prosecutors said, the girl noticed that red stickers had been posted on the toilet seat lid that read, “Inoperative Catering Equipment” and “Remove from Service.” The complaint states that the words “seat broken” were written in black ink on a sticker.
While she was getting dressed after using the toilet, the girl noticed that an iPhone with a flashlight stuck out from under the sticker. According to the complaint, she used her phone to take a picture of it and as she was returning to her seat, she saw the flight attendant enter the restroom behind her. She returned to her seat and told her parents what she had seen, the complaint says.
Her parents told other flight attendants what had happened. Prosecutors said they informed the captain, who reported the incident to law enforcement personnel on the ground.
According to the complaint, after the plane landed at Logan International Airport in Boston, law enforcement officers who encountered Mr. Thompson noticed that his phone had been restored to its factory settings, removing any photos, videos, text messages and activity. Other signs of disappeared. , According to the complaint, officers found 11 “Inoperative Catering Equipment” stickers during a search of Mr. Thompson’s suitcase.
Prosecutors said a search of Mr. Thompson’s iCloud account later revealed evidence of four other instances in which he recorded minors using the restroom on American Airlines flights in 2023. The search also found hundreds of images depicting child sexual abuse that were generated by artificial intelligence, and more than 50 images of a 9-year-old girl who was an unaccompanied minor on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte to San Antonio in July. Had flown in form. According to the complaint, 2023.
According to American Airlines, Mr. Thompson was immediately terminated after the September flight, and has not worked since. It was not immediately clear whether he had a lawyer.
The parents of a 14-year-old girl filed a federal lawsuit against American Airlines in December. John Burrick, a lawyer representing the family, said on Thursday that Mr Thompson’s actions were “disgusting”.
In a statement after Mr. Thompson’s arrest, American Airlines said it “takes these allegations very seriously.”
“They do not reflect our airline or our core mission of caring for people,” the airline said. “We are cooperating fully with law enforcement in their investigation as nothing is more important than the safety of our customers and team.”
According to jail records, Mr. Thompson was in custody Thursday at the Lynchburg Adult Detention Center in Virginia, and prosecutors said he would remain in custody until a court appearance in Virginia, which has not been scheduled. Mr. Thompson is also expected to appear in federal court in Boston at a later date.
He faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of attempted child sexual abuse and up to 20 years in prison if convicted of possession of child pornography, prosecutors said.
Jody Cohen, special agent in charge of the FBI Boston Field Office, said in a statement that Mr. Thompson had “repeatedly targeted children to sexually abuse them for his own gratification.”
He added, “What Mr. Thompson is accused of doing is outrageous,” and, we believe, calculated.