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American Airlines flight attendant arrested for allegedly recording minors in plane bathrooms

An American Airlines flight attendant was arrested in Lynchburg Thursday for allegedly secretly recording or attempting to record a minor female passenger using a lavatory aboard an aircraft he was working in September 2023.

He is also alleged to have possessed recordings of four additional minor female passengers using bathrooms aboard the aircraft he had worked previously.

Estes Carter Thompson III, 36, of Charlotte, N.C., was charged with the following:

  • One count of attempted sexual exploitation of children
  • One count of possession of child pornography depicting a prepubescent minor

“The deeply disturbing conduct alleged here is something no parent or child should ever have to worry about when they travel. Mr. Thompson allegedly used his position to prey on and surreptitiously record innocent children, including unaccompanied minors, while in a vulnerable state aboard flights he was working,” said Acting United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “Everyone – especially children – should feel safe and secure as airline passengers, and parents should feel comfortable traveling with their children. Protecting children is a paramount priority for this office and we will aggressively investigate and hold accountable people who victimize children.”

According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, documents show that on Sept. 2, 2023, while working as a flight attendant onboard an American Airlines flight from Charlotte to Boston, Thompson video-recorded or attempted to record video of a 14-year-old girl passenger as she used to airplane bathroom.

At around midway through the flight, the girl got up to use the lavatory near where she was seated, and it was occupied. After waiting for a short time, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said Thompson allegedly approached her and guided her to the first-class lavatory, which he said was unoccupied.

Charging documents reveal that the girl observed red stickers on the underside of the toilet seat lid, that stated, “INOPERATIVE CATERING EQUIPMENT” and “REMOVE FROM SERVICE,” and “SEAT BROKEN” was hand-written in black ink on one of the stickers. The U.S. Attorney’s Office said that it is alleged that beneath the stickers, Thompson had concealed his phone to record a video.

The 14-year-old girl used her phone to take a picture of the red stickers and the concealed iPhone before exiting the bathroom, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

According to court documents, law enforcement was informed of the matter, and it’s alleged that after a search for Thompson’s suitcase, 11 “INOPERATIVE CATERING EQUIPMENT” stickers were found. A search of Thompson’s iPhone allegedly revealed four other incidents of Thompson recording minors, ages seven, nine, 11, and 14 years old at the time, using the lavatory on an aircraft from January to August 2023. The office said that over 50 images of a nine-year-old were allegedly also found in Thompson’s iCloud.

Thompson will remain in custody pending his initial appearance in the Western District of Virginia. He’s set to appear in federal court in Boston at a later date.

Source: WSLS News 10

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