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May 29, 2024

Flight Attendant Arrested for Allegedly Filming Minors in Plane Bathrooms

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Jan 20, 2024

Charlotte-Based Flight Attendant Caught Hiding iPhone in Plane Lavatory

Estes Carter Thompson III, a 36-year-old flight attendant from Charlotte, North Carolina, was arrested on January 18th and charged with filming minors in the bathroom during several American Airlines flights.

According to a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the investigation into Thompson began when a minor girl discovered a hidden iPhone taped to the back wall of an airplane bathroom recording video during a flight from San Diego to Charlotte on October 16, 2023.

The girl reported finding the phone to a flight attendant, who alerted the pilot. Police met the plane when it landed in Charlotte, and the FBI launched an investigation, obtaining a search warrant for the phone and data.

Analysis found videos of minors using the bathroom on four separate flights, from October 2022 to August 2023. The videos focus primarily on filming the minors’ genitals during bathroom use. Most videos correspond to flights Thompson was working as a crew member.

Flight Attendant Faced “Aggravated Sexual Abuse” Charges

According to NBC News, Thompson was initially arrested in October 2023 at Charlotte Douglas International Airport and faced state charges for aggravated sexual abuse in Arizona and North Carolina.

The federal complaint adds a charge of “sexual exploitation of a minor” for the federal offense of filming minors in an aircraft lavatory. The crime carries a minimum penalty of 15 years in prison.

Prosecutors praised the teenage girl who discovered the phone for speaking up and enabling a swift investigation.

“We are grateful to the teenage victim who had the courage to speak up when she discovered Thompson’s recording device in the airplane bathroom,” said U.S. Attorney Christopher Kavanaugh. “We hope that this criminal charge will prevent him from exploiting any more minors.”

Timeline of Events Leading to Arrest

Date Event
October 16, 2023 Minor girl discovers hidden iPhone taping video in airplane bathroom during Charlotte flight, reports it to crew. Pilot contacts police.
October 2023 Thompson arrested at Charlotte airport, faces state charges. FBI investigation begins analyzing phone data.
January 18, 2024 Federal criminal complaint filed charging Thompson with sexual exploitation of minor for filming children in airplane bathrooms.

According to the criminal complaint, Thompson used an iPhone 12 Pro for the secret recordings, at times “holding it or bracing it against the wall” to film young girls.

Thecharging document states Thompson filmed minors in airplane bathrooms during four American Airlines flights:

  • Flight 308 from San Diego to Charlotte on October 16, 2023
  • Flight 1429 from Charlotte to Miami on July 18, 2023
  • Flight 350 from LA to Charlotte on August 2, 2023
  • Flight 748 from Las Vegas to Charlotte on October 11, 2022

In the bathroom recordings, the minors are reportedly partially clothed, and their genitals are visible as they use the facilities.

Flight Attendant Worked 20 Years for American Airlines

36-year-old Estes Carter Thompson III had worked for American Airlines for over 20 years before his arrest, according to Huffington Post. He was based in Charlotte, NC and conducted training classes for flight crews.

Sources at American Airlines expressed dismay at the allegations against Thompson:

“The actions of this former team member are unacceptable and do not reflect the high standards we hold ourselves to every day,” an airline spokesperson told HuffPost.

The company stated it is cooperating fully with investigators. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants also released a statement supporting the investigation and applauding the victim for speaking up about the disturbing incident.

Father Confronted Flight Attendant Mid-Flight

Several news outlets reported that during the October 16 flight when the recording device was discovered, the teenage victim showed the phone to her father mid-flight.

The Boston Herald writes that according to a federal affidavit, the girl’s father confronted Thompson about the recording device:

The father asked Thompson if he put the phone there “to record people,” to which the attendant confessed that he had. Seeing the color drain from the flight attendant’s face, the father used Thompson’s phone to take pictures of him and record their conversation.

Thompson begged the man not to report him to law enforcement, offering to erase videos from his phone, the court papers state. The father refused and alerted the flight crew instead.

Legal Battle Likely to Follow Arrest

Civil rights attorney Nancy Erika Smith told NewsNation that she expects additional charges and lawsuits will come from Thompson’s disturbing actions:

“I believe there will be more criminal charges brought as more victims come forward,” Smith said. “And then there will be a lawsuit on behalf of all the victims against American Airlines for allowing this to happen.”

Smith believes the airline may face legal trouble for not better protecting passenger privacy and ensuring flight attendants do not exploit minors. She plans to represent victims in civil litigation against Thompson and American Airlines.

It remains unclear how Thompson was able to repeatedly hide an iPhone in plane lavatories to film minors without flight crews noticing. The investigation into these alarming recording activities continues.

With a minimum 15-year sentence if convicted, Thompson faces severe consequences for victimizing minors aboard American Airlines flights. The courageous teenage girl who spoke up about the disturbing discovery has done a public service helping catch an exploitative criminal. Her actions brought some measure of justice, but the legal fallout from this traumatic case appears far from over.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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