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Flight Attendant Arrested for Allegedly Filming Minors in Airplane Bathroom

Estes Carter Thompson III, 36, was arrested for allegedly attempting to record a minor while she was using an aircraft bathroom in September 2023

Victor Habbick Visions/Science Photo Library/Getty Images A flight attendant was arrested on Thursday and charged with one count of attempted sexual exploitation of children and one count of possession of child pornography depicting a prepubescent minor
Victor Habbick Visions/Science Photo Library/Getty Images A flight attendant was arrested on Thursday and charged with one count of attempted sexual exploitation of children and one count of possession of child pornography depicting a prepubescent minor

A 36-year-old American Airlines flight attendant was arrested Thursday for allegedly recording or attempting to record a minor passenger while she used the bathroom in an aircraft in September 2023.

Estes Carter Thompson III, of Charlotte, N.C., was arrested and charged with one count of attempted sexual exploitation of children and one count of possession of child pornography depicting a prepubescent minor, according to a statement released by the U.S. District Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts on Thursday.

The suspect was arrested in Lynchburg, Va. Authorities allege he also had other surreptitiously recorded videos on his phone of minor females using the bathroom on aircrafts he previously worked on.

The specific incident in Thursday's report allegedly occurred on a flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Boston, Mass., in early September.

Thompson allegedly convinced a 14-year-old girl to use the facilities in the first-class section of the plane and escorted her there.

He allegedly entered the bathroom before her and told her that the toilet seat was broken. When she entered the bathroom, the victim saw red stickers on the underside of the toilet seat lid that indicated the toilet seat was broken. Thompson's iPhone was allegedly taped and hidden under the stickers so that he could record video, the U.S. District Attorney's Office, District of Massachusetts report alleges.

The teenager took a picture of the set-up with her own phone and exited the bathroom, which Thompson allegedly re-entered after she left. She alerted her parents to the situation and the proper chain of command was followed to inform authorities on the ground of events on board the plane.

The victim's father allegedly confronted Thompson, who then locked himself in the bathroom for a few minutes before the flight landed, per the statement. When authorities on the ground received his cell phone, it appeared to have been set back to factory settings.

According to the U.S. District Attorney's report, 11 “INOPERATIVE CATERING EQUIPMENT” stickers identical to the ones the victim captured in the picture on her phone were found in Thompson's belongings.

A search of the suspect's iCloud allegedly uncovered four additional instances between January and August 2023 that Thompson used his phone to record minors using aircraft bathrooms. The alleged victims in those recordings ranged in age from 7 to 14.

Over 50 images of a 9-year-old unaccompanied minor were also allegedly found on Thompson's iCloud. The images included close-ups of the victim's face while she was sleeping.

All of Thompson's alleged victims have been identified and their parents have been notified by law enforcement, the DA's statement said.

Thompson will remain in custody in Virginia pending an appearance in the Western District of Virginia. He'll also appear in a Boston federal court at a later date.

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“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 U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy in a statement provided in the report.

“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.”

It is unclear if Thompson has retained an attorney to speak on his behalf.

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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