- Veteran flight attendant Ricardo Cesar Guedes worked for United Airlines using a false name for over 20 years.
- The Brazilian man stole the identity of four-year-old William Ericson Ladd, who died in a car wreck in the 1970s.
- Investigators matched two sets of fingerprints provided by Guedes to the Brazilian government and United.
A veteran flight attendant stole the identity of a dead American child and used the false name to work for United Airlines for 23 years, according to a federal court record.
In a complaint filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston, investigators from the Diplomatic Security Service accused Brazilian national Ricardo Cesar Guedes of identity theft of deceased US-born William Ericson Ladd. According to the complaint, Guedes went by Eric Ladd and used the stolen identity to illegally work for United Airlines.
Ladd was born in 1974 and died in a car crash in 1979 in Washington state, just a month before his fifth birthday, according to the complaint. Ladd’s mother, Debra Lynn Hays, confirmed the boy’s birth and death to DSS special agents in July 2021.
Investigators allege Guedes was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 1972, but assumed Ladd’s identity in 1998 when he successfully applied for a US passport using Ladd’s name. Since then, Guedes renewed his passport six times until December 2020 when the State Department flagged the application for “various fraud indicators.”
A criminal investigation was launched into Guedes, and agents were able to trace his identity back to Brazil with fingerprints he submitted for his Brazilian national identity document in the 1990s, according to the complaint. Court documents reveal the technical staff at Customs and Border Protection compared those fingerprints to the set Guedes submitted for his background check for employment with United and confirmed they were a match.
United confirmed to Insider that Guedes is no longer with the company.
“United has a thorough verification process for new employees that complies with federal legal requirements,” the carrier said.
Guedes has been charged with providing a false statement in a passport application, falsely impersonating a US citizen, and entering an airport secure area under false pretenses, according to the complaint.
The third charge is included because Guedes’ role as a flight attendant allowed him to use the expedited “Known Crewmember” TSA lane and bypass most security checks.
According to the complaint, investigators and TSA agents observed Guedes using the KCM line at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport to access the “secure area” of the airport, which is part of the terminal that requires a security check to enter. DSS agents arrested Guedes at the airport after watching him board a flight while holding a phone that read “Eric’s iPhone” on the screen.
An attorney representing Guedes declined to comment on the case.