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Flight Attendant Arrested for Recording Minors in Aircraft Lavatory


Boston – In a shocking turn of events, an American Airlines flight attendant, Estes Carter Thompson III, was arrested by the FBI for allegedly targeting minors in a sexually exploitative manner. This arrest was announced by Jodi Cohen, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division, who described Thompson’s actions as disgraceful and calculated.


The arrest followed an incident on September 2, 2023, on a flight from Charlotte, N.C., to Boston, Mass. According to charging documents, Thompson attempted to secretly record a 14-year-old female passenger using the aircraft lavatory. Thompson allegedly directed the minor to an unoccupied first-class lavatory, where he had concealed his iPhone under red stickers on the toilet seat lid to record video.

“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 United States Attorney Joshua S. Levy. “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.”

The young victim, upon discovering the hidden iPhone, informed her parents, leading to immediate action by the flight crew and notification of law enforcement. It was further alleged that, following the confrontation by the victim's father, Thompson locked himself in the lavatory with his iPhone, possibly attempting to delete evidence.


Law enforcement's search at Boston’s Logan Airport revealed that Thompson’s iPhone might have been reset to factory settings. A subsequent investigation uncovered 11 similar stickers in Thompson's suitcase and revealed multiple instances of similar recordings in his iCloud account. These recordings involved minors aged seven to 14 years, and over 50 images of a nine-year-old unaccompanied minor were found, including photos of her sleeping.


Additionally, authorities found hundreds of AI-generated child pornography images on Thompson's iCloud account. The charges against Thompson include attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography, with potential sentences ranging from 15 to 30 years and five to 20 years in prison, respectively, for each charge.


Acting U.S. Attorney Levy, FBI SAC Cohen, and Interim Colonel John E. Mawn Jr. of the Massachusetts State Police announced the arrest. The case, prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Elianna J. Nuzum, is part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched by the Department of Justice in May 2006 to combat child sexual exploitation and abuse.


As with all defendants in the U.S. justice system, Thompson is presumed innocent until proven guilty. This case highlights the serious nature of crimes involving the exploitation of minors and the concerted efforts of law enforcement agencies to address such offenses. For more information on Project Safe Childhood, the public can visit the Department of Justice’s website.

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