Flight Attendant Accused Of Filming Minors In Bathrooms

By Jason Hall

January 19, 2024

Photo: U.S. Attorney's Office

A former American Airlines flight attendant faces federal child pornography charges after being accused of secretly filming a 14-year-old inside an airplane bathroom and possessing videos of other young girls in the lavatories of other planes he'd previously worked on, the U.S. Attorney's Office in Massachusetts announced in a news release.

Estes Carter Thompson III, 36, of Charlotte, faces one count of attempted sexual exploitation of children and one count of possession of child pornography depicting a prepubescent minor. Thompson was arrested in Lynchburg, Virginia, on Thursday (January 18) and is scheduled for his initial appearance in the Western District of Virginia court prior to appearing at a Boston federal court at a later date.

“Today, the FBI arrested Estes Carter Thompson III after he repeatedly targeted unsuspecting children to sexually exploit them for his own gratification. What Mr. Thompson is accused of doing is disgraceful, and we believe, calculated, given that this alleged conduct occurred on at least five flights,” said Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Division, in the news release. “This case should make it crystal clear that the FBI takes crimes aboard aircraft and the sexual exploitation of children seriously. If you’ve been the victim of a crime aboard an aircraft or have witnessed one take place, we ask you to report it to both your flight crew and the FBI.”

Thompson allegedly filmed the 14-year-old while working on the crew of a flight from Charlotte to Boston in September 2023, the news release states. The 36-year-old was "immediately withheld from service" and hasn't worked for American Airlines since the incident took place, the company said in a statement to CNN following his arrest.

“We take these allegations very seriously,” American Airlines said. “They do not reflect our airline or our core mission of caring for people. 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.”

Thompson allegedly approached the girl as she waited for an occupied bathroom in the main cabin, at which point he escorted her to a first-class bathroom before saying he needed to wash his hands and claiming that the toilet seat was broken. The girl entered the bathroom shortly after and noticed red stickers on the underside of an open toilet seat lid stating, “INOPERATIVE CATERING EQUIPMENT” and “REMOVE FROM SERVICE,” according to prosecutors.

“It is alleged that, beneath the red stickers, Thompson had concealed his iPhone to record a video," the U.S. Attorney's Office news release stated.

The girl took a photo of the concealed phone and returned to her seat to show her parents, who then notified other flight attendants, who notified the captain, who alerted law enforcement on the ground, according to prosecutors. Thompson allegedly locked himself in the bathroom with his phone for up to five minutes after being confronted by the girl's father, with police claiming he potentially restored the device to factory settings, just before the plane descended.

Authorities found 11 stickers similar to the ones spotted by the girl inside Thompson's suitcase and a search of his iCloud account found four recordings of children between the ages of seven and 14, all of whom were using the bathroom on airplanes, reported to be filmed between January and August 2023.

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