American Airlines flight attendant arrested for secretly filming minor girls in airplane bathrooms

An American Airlines flight attendant was arrested Thursday for allegedly using a hidden camera to record young girls using the restroom on a flight he was working on.

Estes Carter Thompson III, 36, was caught red-handed in September after secretly filming a 14-year-old girl in an airplane bathroom, triggering a federal investigation that revealed videos of four previous victims. Became.

Thompson is suspected by the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts of possessing recordings of four underage female passengers, as young as 7 years old, using the restroom on a plane he previously worked on. announced on Thursday.

Prosecutors say a flight attendant tried to film a 14-year-old girl in the restroom on Sept. 2 while on duty on an American Airlines flight from Charlotte, North Carolina, to Boston, Massachusetts.

Midway through the flight, the boy got up to use the toilet in the main cabin, which was closest to his seat, but found it occupied, prosecutors said. Mr. Thompson approached her waiting girlfriend, told her the first-class restroom was open, and led her there.

Before she entered, the man told her that she needed to wash her hands and that the toilet seat was broken. He briefly entered and exited her bathroom before letting her in.

Estes Carter Thompson III, 36, was arrested Thursday in Virginia.

Once inside, the boy noticed red stickers on the underside of the open toilet seat lid that read “Dysfunctional Food Service Facility” and “Remove from Service,” with one of the stickers marked in black ink. There was a handwritten note that said, “The toilet seat is broken.” , according to court documents and images obtained by The Post.

The girl noticed that under the sticker, Thompson had hidden his cell phone to record the video. She took a photo of the sticker and her phone before leaving, at which point Thompson quickly went back inside.

The girl's image shows her iPhone casually taped to a toilet seat, covered except for the top where the camera is, and a bright flashlight lit next to it.

The victim returned to her seat and showed the photo to her parents, who then reported what had happened to other flight attendants. They alerted the captain and contacted ground authorities in Boston.

Thompson allegedly hid his cell phone under the toilet seat.

The girl's father confronted Thompson, who locked himself in the bathroom holding his cell phone for about five minutes until the plane landed.

The girl's family filed a lawsuit against American Airlines in December, alleging that Thompson “looked pale” when confronted.

“He said, 'I don't know what you're talking about. I have nothing to do with this,” the complaint states.

When police searched his belongings at Boston's Logan Airport, they found 11 more red stickers similar to the ones he used to hide his cellphone. Officers also searched his cell phone and found it may have been restored to factory settings.

However, Thompson's iCloud account was not deleted.

Through this report, police discovered four other instances between January and August 2023 where Thompson secretly filmed underage girls using the restroom. The victims in those incidents were ages 7, 9, 11 and 14, according to prosecutors.

American Airlines said Thompson was removed from the flight immediately after the incident. AFP (via Getty Images)

More than 50 images of an unaccompanied 9-year-old minor were also found in Thompson's iCloud, including one of her sleeping in a seat.

Prosecutors said all of the minor victims involved have been identified and contacted by law enforcement.

Authorities also discovered hundreds of AI-generated images of child pornography stored in Thompson's iCloud account.

American Airlines said Thompson was fired shortly after the incident in September and has not worked since.

Still, the 14-year-old victim's family said in December that Thompson's cellphone was not immediately confiscated, meaning Thompson could be subject to “evidence destruction” during the flight even after crew members were notified. He filed a lawsuit against American Airlines.

The family's attorney, Paul Llewellyn, told the Post on Thursday that while he was pleased to learn of Thompson's arrest, American Airlines still had questions to answer about the case.

“It is shocking to hear that he allegedly preyed on at least five minors while on board American Airlines,” Llewellyn said in a statement. “While the criminal justice system must now hold the flight attendants accountable, it remains to be seen whether American Airlines will ultimately take any responsibility for this incident to the families. Something like this will never happen. It should not be tolerated and should never happen again.”

American Airlines said it “takes these allegations very seriously.”

“These do not reflect our airline or our core mission of caring for people,” the airline told the Post in a statement. “Nothing is more important than the safety and security of our customers and teams, so we have fully cooperated with law enforcement in their investigation.”

Thompson was taken into custody Thursday in Lynchburg, Virginia, and charged with one count of attempted sexual exploitation of a child and one count of possession of child pornography depicting a prepubescent minor, prosecutors said.

According to federal sentencing guidelines, Thompson could face up to 50 years in prison, a lifetime of supervised release, and a fine of up to $250,000.

He was taken into custody ahead of his initial court appearance in the Western District of Virginia and is scheduled to appear in federal court in Boston at a later date.

“The deeply disturbing conduct alleged here should never be a concern for parents or children when traveling,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy.

Additional reporting by David Propper.