The authorities in Lynchburg, Virginia, are holding Estes Thompson in custody after the American Airlines flight attendant was accused of illicitly filming a minor in an aircraft restroom.
The 37-year-old Estes Carter Thompson III of Charlotte, North Carolina, is accused of filming a total of five girls between the ages of 9 and 14 during different American Airlines flights throughout 2023.
He has been charged with one count of attempted sexual exploitation of children and one count of possession of child pornography depicting a prepubescent minor.
Thompson’s suspected crimes came to light in September 2023 while he was working on a flight from Charlotte to Boston. When a 14-year-old girl got up to use the restroom, Thompson allegedly offered to escort her to an unoccupied first-class lavatory.
The flight attendant entered the lavatory before the girl and reemerged, telling her the toilet seat was broken, but she should go ahead anyway.
Inside the lavatory, the girl found official-looking red stickers attached to the open toilet seat lid that stated “inoperative catering equipment,” and “remove from service,” and “seat broken.” The girl noticed the stickers were holding an iPhone in place. The iPhone’s light was turned on, indicating it may have been recording.
Flight attendant Estes Thompson accused of deleting images from cellphone
The girl snapped a photo and returned to her parents. The parents notified another flight attendant, who informed the pilot. The pilot alerted the police.Watch the Latest on our YouTube Channel
Thompson locked himself in a lavatory just before landing when he is suspected of deleting images from his phone. The police in Boston found his phone had reverted to factory settings.
At the time, Thompson was released due to a lack of evidence on his phone, but the FBI began investigating. FBI agents later accessed an iCloud account belonging to Thompson, which allegedly revealed multiple video footage and images of girls from four other flights.
FBI says 100s of images recovered from iCloud of Estes Thompson American Airlines flight attendant
The federal authorities claim they found 50 images of an unaccompanied 9-year-old. Many of the photos included close-up shots of the child’s face as she slept in her seat.
The authorities also say agents recovered hundreds of images of AI-generated child pornography from Thompson’s iCloud account.
Thompson is expected to make his first federal court appearance in Lynchburg, Virginia, but is also expected to be transferred to a federal court in Boston at a later date.
If convicted, Thompson is looking at a sentence of 15 to 30 years for the charge of sexual exploitation of children and another 5 to 20 years for possession of child pornography.
American Airlines released the following statement, “We take these allegations very seriously. They don’t reflect our airline or our core mission of caring for people. We have been fully cooperating with law enforcement in its investigation as there is nothing more important than the safety and security of our customers and team.”