American Airlines Flight Attendant Filmed Minors Using Lavatory, U.S. Says

An American Airlines flight attendant was arrested on Thursday, accused of using his cellphone in an attempt to secretly record a 14-year-old girl as she used the lavatory on a domestic flight in September, federal prosecutors said.

The flight attendant, Estes Carter Thompson III, 37, of Charlotte, N.C., was arrested in Lynchburg, Va., and charged with attempted sexual exploitation of children and possession of child pornography after investigators found evidence that he had surreptitiously recorded video footage of four other girls as they used the lavatory on American Airlines flights last year, the U.S. attorney’s office for the District of Massachusetts said.

“The deeply disturbing conduct alleged here is something no parent or child should ever have to worry about when they travel,” Joshua S. Levy, the acting U.S. attorney for the district of Massachusetts, said in a statement. “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.”

According to a criminal complaint, Mr. Thompson was working as a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight to Boston from Charlotte on Sept. 2. About halfway through the flight, the 14-year-old girl got up to use a lavatory in the main cabin, the document says.

She had been waiting for a short time when Mr. Thompson told her that she could use the lavatory in first class, which was unoccupied, the complaint says. Before the girl entered the lavatory, Mr. Thompson told her that the toilet seat was broken and that he needed to wash his hands, according to the charging document.

Once inside the lavatory, prosecutors said, the girl noticed that red stickers had been affixed to the toilet seat lid that read, “INOPERATIVE CATERING EQUIPMENT” and “REMOVE FROM SERVICE.” On one of the stickers, the words “SEAT BROKEN” had been handwritten in black ink, the complaint said.

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