Flight Attendant Accused of Using Fake Identity for 23 Years on the Job

A Brazilian-born man has been accused of stealing the identity of a dead American child—and using the falsified information throughout his 23-year-long career as a United Airlines flight attendant.

The claim comes in the form of a criminal complaint filed by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston, which alleges that 49-year-old Ricardo César Guedes assumed the identity of William Ericson Ladd, a child that died in a 1979 car accident.

The news comes at a time when passports have reportedly surpassed national identity cards as the "most frequently attacked form of identity document."

According to the criminal complaint, per Business Insider, Guedes was reportedly born in São Paulo in 1972. Guedes is said to have adopted Ladd's identity in 1998, after applying for a U.S. passport with the child's name.

Ladd, meanwhile, was born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1974 and died in Washington state prior to his fifth birthday, as confirmed by his mother to investigators in July 2021.

Following his successful passport application, Guedes renewed his U.S. passport under Ladd's name six times. Finally, in December 2020, the document was flagged as having "various fraud indicators" by the State Department.

A subsequent investigation found Guedes' fingerprints on a Brazilian national identity document he submitted in the 1990s—which matched those on his United Airlines background check.

Guedes is also accused of sponsoring his spouse's application for permanent U.S. residency using Ladd's identity.

In September, agents observed Guedes accessing a secure area at Houston's George Bush International Airport, explained the criminal complaint. They also saw him using a smartphone that said "Eric's iPhone" on the lock screen.

According to a report by the Houston Chronicle, when confronted by officials, Guedes initially identified himself as Ladd—but admitted to the falsified identity after probing.

"I had a dream, and the dream is over," Guedes reportedly said upon his arrest. "Now I have to face reality."

In a statement to Newsweek, United Airlines confirmed that Guedes is no longer employed with the company.

"United has a thorough verification process for new employees that complies with federal legal requirements," noted the statement.

The former flight attendant now faces several charges, including falsifying information in a passport application, aggravated identity theft, and entering the "secure area" of an airport under false pretenses.

According to the Houston Chronicle, over the past five years, the Diplomatic Security Service has opened approximately 2,000 cases of passport fraud annually. However, it's a crime that's become increasingly difficult to execute as the technology used for IDs continues to advance.

Explained Assistant Special Agent Nicholas Porter, of the Diplomatic Security Service, to the publication: "I think you'd be surprised what people find just combing the internet, looking for obituaries. There's a tremendous amount of information on people."

Airplane Interior
A former United flight attendant has been accused of using a fake identity, taken from a deceased child, throughout his 23-year career. An image showing the inside of an airplane. Demkat/iStock / Getty Images Plus