A Brazilian man working as a flight attendant for United Airlines posed as a dead Atlanta boy for two decades, federal prosecutors said.
Ricardo Cesar Guedes, 49, is accused of stealing the identity of William Ericson Ladd — an Atlanta boy who died in a Washington state car crash in 1979 — to apply for a US passport in 1998 and renew it six times through 2020, according to a federal complaint.
Guedes, a native of Sao Paulo, then used the dead boy’s name while getting married and taking out a mortgage in Houston, according to the complaint, which lists his occupation as a flight attendant for United Airlines.
Investigators allegedly uncovered Guedes’ real identity by comparing fingerprints he submitted for his Brazilian national identity document in the 1990s.
He was arrested at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in September when he entered a secure crew member area while using the dead boy’s identity after “various fraud indicators” got his passport flagged, the complaint states.
Ladd’s mother, Debra Lynn Hays, confirmed her son died to State Department investigators last July, according to the complaint charging Guedes with aggravated identity theft, making false statements on a passport application and other counts.
Hays did not recognize the Social Security number issued to Guedes in North Carolina in the name of William Ericson Ladd some 17 years after her son died, the complaint states.
Guedes allegedly took 40 trips for United Airlines in 2020 while using Ladd’s name. He remains detained pending trial, the Houston Chronicle reported.
A United Airlines spokesperson confirmed Guedes’ prior employment, but said he was longer working for the company, NBC News reported Tuesday.
“United has a thorough verification process for new employees that complies with federal legal requirements,” the spokesperson said.
An attorney for Guedes declined to comment on the allegations Tuesday, NBC News reported.
The Diplomatic Security Service, the law enforcement arm of the State Department, investigates roughly 5,000 passport fraud cases per year, according to the Chronicle.
Guedes had no prior criminal record, the newspaper reported. When confronted by federal investigators in September, he identified himself as William Ericson Ladd before agents showed him a death certificate for the boy and a photo of his gravesite in Alabama.
Guedes then signed a fingerprint sheet using his real name, the newspaper reported.
“I had a dream, and the dream is over,” Guedes reportedly told the arresting agents. “Now I have to face reality.”