Flight attendant held for filming minors in washroom

NEW DELHI: A flight attendant working for American Airlines was arrested on Thursday for allegedly attempting to secretly record a 14-year-old female passenger using the washroom during a flight in September last year, the Associated Press reported.
The accused, Estes Carter Thompson III, 37, from Charlotte, North Carolina, is also facing charges for possessing recordings of four other minor female passengers using lavatories on a different flight he had worked on previously.
Thompson has been 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 initial court appearance in Virginia. Subsequently, he will be presented in federal court in Boston on a later date, as confirmed by officials.
“The deeply disturbing conduct alleged here is something no parent or child should ever have to worry about when they travel,” acting US attorney Joshua Levy said in a statement.
“Mr Thompson allegedly used his position to prey on 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 withheld from service following the September 2023 incident”.
“We have been fully cooperating with law enforcement in its investigation as there is nothing more important than the safety and security of our customers and team,” the statement further said.
No contact information for Thompson was 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 lavatory nearest to her seat but found it occupied.
Thompson, the flight attendant, directed her to the first-class lavatory, claiming it was unoccupied. Before entering, he informed her that he needed to wash his hands and that the toilet seat was broken.
Once inside the toilet, the teenager discovered red stickers beneath the toilet seat lid, stating “INOPERATIVE CATERING EQUIPMENT,” “REMOVE FROM SERVICE,” and “SEAT BROKEN.”
She took a photograph of the stickers, as well as the concealed iPhone that Thompson had hidden to record a video. Thompson re-entered 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’s descent.
Upon searching Thompson’s suitcase, investigators discovered 11 stickers similar to the ones found in the toilet.
Furthermore, Thompson’s iCloud account allegedly revealed four additional instances between January and August 2023 where he had recorded minors using the lavatory on a different flight. The victims in these recordings were aged 7, 9, 11, and 14 at the time.
Additionally, Thompson’s iCloud account contained over 50 images of a 9-year-old minor who was not accompanied by an adult.
Law enforcement authorities have identified all the minor victims involved in this case and have contacted their families, Levy informed.
A lawyer representing the family of the 14-year-old victim, who have expressed their intention to sue the airline, expressed satisfaction with the arrest. Paul Llewellyn, the lawyer, stated, “It is also shocking to hear that he allegedly preyed on at least five minors while they were flying on American. It remains to be seen whether American Airlines will now finally take some measure of responsibility.”
Investigators also discovered a significant number of AI-generated child sexual abuse images stored in Thompson’s iCloud account.
The 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, a sentence of at least five years and up to 20 years in prison. Both charges also carry the possibility of a lifetime of supervised release, a fine of up to $2,50,000, and restitution.
American Airlines, headquartered in Fort Worth, Texas, operates a major hub at Charlotte airport. Source

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