American Airlines flight attendant arrested for filming minors in aircraft bathrooms, feds say

Jan 19, 2024, 2:44 PM

FILE - American Airlines planes are parked at Pittsburgh International Airport on March 31, 2020, i...

FILE - American Airlines planes are parked at Pittsburgh International Airport on March 31, 2020, in Imperial, Pa. An American Airlines flight attendant from Charlotte is accused of filming minors in aircraft bathrooms.(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, file)

(AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, file)

(CNN) — An American Airlines flight attendant from Charlotte is accused of filming minors in aircraft bathrooms.

Investigators said Estes Carter Thompson III, 37, of Charlotte, is charged with one count of attempted sexual exploitation of children and one count of possession of child pornography.

Court documents reveal Thompson is accused of recording or attempting to record a 14-year-old girl in September of last year using a bathroom on a plane from Charlotte bound for Boston.

Thompson was arrested Thursday in Lynchburg, Virginia. Authorities say he will appear in federal court in Boston at a later date.

“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.

“After the minor victim had been waiting a short time, Thompson allegedly approached her, told her that the first-class lavatory was unoccupied and escorted her toward first class. Before the minor victim entered the lavatory, Thompson allegedly told her that he needed to wash his hands and that the lavatory’s toilet seat was broken and briefly entered the lavatory,” a news release from the Department of Justice detailed.

The release adds, “After Thompson exited the lavatory, the minor victim entered and observed red stickers on the underside of the toilet seat lid, which was in the open position, that stated, ‘INOPERATIVE CATERING EQUIPMENT’ and ‘REMOVE FROM SERVICE,’ and ‘SEAT BROKEN’ was hand-written in black ink on one of the stickers. It is alleged that, beneath the red stickers, Thompson had concealed his iPhone to record a video. The minor victim used her phone to take a picture of the red stickers and the concealed iPhone she found in the lavatory before exiting, at which time Thompson allegedly re-entered it immediately.”

The parents notified other flight attendants

Court documents say when the minor returned to her seat, she informed her parents of what she saw. The parents reported the matter to other flight attendants, who notified the captain. Law enforcement was notified.

The victim’s father confronted Thompson, who shortly thereafter, locked himself in the lavatory with his iPhone for three to five minutes prior to the flight’s descent, according to the DOJ.

“Upon the flight’s arrival at Boston’s Logan Airport, law enforcement observed that Thompson’s iPhone may have been restored to factory settings. It is alleged that a subsequent search of Thompson’s suitcase was found to contain 11 ‘INOPERATIVE CATERING EQUIPMENT’ stickers, like those observed by the minor victim on the back of the toilet seat,” a news release said.

Thompson is also accused of recording four other young girls — ages 7, 9, 11 and 14 — who were passengers using bathrooms on planes he had previously worked. The DOJ says images of those minors were found on Thompson’s iCloud account, and more than 50 images were found.

Thompson could face a maximum of 50 years in prison.

According to the DOJ, all minor victims involved in this matter have been identified, and their families have been contacted by law enforcement.

It is further alleged that hundreds of images of AI-generated child pornography were also found stored on Thompson’s iCloud account.

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American Airlines flight attendant arrested for filming minors in aircraft bathrooms, feds say