A veteran flight attendant worked for United for 23 years using a false identity, federal court complaint says

United Airlines Boeing 737
United Airlines Boeing 737.Philip Pilosian/Shutterstock
  • Veteran flight attendant Ricardo Guedes worked for United Airlines using a false name for 23 years.

  • The Brazilian man stole the identity of William Ladd, who died in a car crash at age 4 in the 1970s.

  • Investigators matched two sets of fingerprints provided by Guedes to Brazil's 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, a federal court record said.

In a complaint filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston, investigators from the Diplomatic Security Service accused Ricardo Cesar Guedes, a Brazilian national, of identity theft of William Ericson Ladd, a deceased American. The complaint said 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, a month before his fifth birthday, the complaint said. Ladd's mother, Debra Lynn Hays, confirmed the boy's birth and death to DSS special agents in July 2021.

Investigators allege that Guedes was born in São Paulo in 1972 but assumed Ladd's identity in 1998 when he successfully applied for a US passport using Ladd's name. Since then, Guedes has renewed his passport six times. In December 2020, 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, the complaint said. Court documents said 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 that they matched.

United confirmed to Insider that Guedes was 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, the complaint said.

The third charge was included because Guedes' role as a flight attendant allowed him to use the expedited "known crewmember" TSA lane and bypass most security checks.

The complaint said investigators and Transportation Security Administration agents observed Guedes using the known-crewmember line at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport to access the secure area of the airport, which was part of the terminal that required 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.

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