An American Airlines flight attendant was arrested on charges of recording underage girls in the bathroom
The defendant, Estes Carter Thompson III, 37, of Charlotte, North Carolina, also faces charges of possessing recordings of four other underage female passengers using restrooms on a different flight he was previously on.
Thompson was charged with attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of child sexual abuse images involving a prepubescent minor.
He was arrested in Lynchburg, Virginia, and will remain in custody until his first court appearance in Virginia. He will then be arraigned in federal court in Boston at a later date, officials confirmed.
“The extremely disturbing behavior alleged here is something no parent or child should have to worry about when they travel,” Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua Levy said in a statement.
“Mr. Thompson allegedly used his position to assault and surreptitiously record innocent children, including unaccompanied minors,” Levy added.
American Airlines responded to the incident by issuing a statement emphasizing the seriousness of the allegation. The airline stated that the accused was “immediately suspended from service following the September 2023 incident.”
“We have fully cooperated with law enforcement authorities in their investigation, because nothing is more important than the safety and security of our customers and team,” the statement said.
Contact information for Thompson was not available, and it remains unclear whether he has legal representation.
According to investigators, the incident occurred during a flight from Charlotte to Boston on September 2, 2023. The 14-year-old passenger got up to use the toilet closest to her seat but found it occupied.
Flight attendant Thompson directed her to the first class lavatory, claiming it was vacant. Before entering, he told her that he needed to wash his hands and that the toilet seat was broken.
Once inside the toilet, the teen discovered red stickers under the toilet seat lid, reading “catering equipment inoperable,” “removed from service,” and “seat broken.”
She took a photo of the posters as well as the hidden iPhone that Thompson had hidden to record a video. Thompson returned to the bathroom after the girl left.
The girl informed her parents, and her father confronted Thompson, who locked himself in the toilet with his iPhone for several minutes before the flight landed.
Upon searching Thompson’s bag, investigators discovered 11 stickers similar to those found in the toilet.
Furthermore, Thompson’s iCloud account allegedly revealed four additional instances between January and August 2023 in which he recorded minors using the restroom on a different flight. The victims in these recordings were ages 7, 9, 11, and 14 at the time.
Additionally, Thompson’s iCloud account contained more than 50 photos of a 9-year-old minor who was not accompanied by an adult.
Levy reported that law enforcement has identified all of the minor victims involved in this case and has contacted their families.
A lawyer representing the 14-year-old victim’s family, who have expressed their intention to sue the airline, expressed satisfaction with the arrest. “It is also shocking to hear that he assaulted at least five minors while flying on an American plane,” said attorney Paul Llewellyn. “It remains to be seen whether American Airlines will finally take some measure of responsibility.”
Investigators also discovered a large number of AI-generated child sexual abuse images stored in Thompson’s iCloud account.
Charges of attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of child sexual abuse material involving a prepubescent minor carry severe penalties, with the former carrying a minimum sentence of 15 years and a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, while the latter carries a sentence of 15 years in prison. General. At least five years and up to 20 years in prison. Both charges also carry the possibility of lifetime supervised release, a fine of up to $250,000, and restitution.
American Airlines, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, operates a major hub at Charlotte Airport.
(Signs for translation) Bathroom