A Brazillian man assumed the identity of a dead U.S. citizen and managed to hoodwink officials into issuing him a U.S. passport in his newly acquired identity. With his fraudulently obtained U.S. passport, he became a United Airlines flight attendant, bypassing normal airport security rules, prosecutors allege.
Ricardo Cesar Guedes was known as Willian Ericson Ladd, which he shortened to Eric Ladd, for 23-years after first convincing a passport agent to issue him a U.S. passport in the name of a boy who had died nearly two decades before.
Ricardo was, in fact, a Brazillian national who was born in Sao Palao in 1972 and who had no legal right to live or work in the United States according to investigators from the Diplomatic Security Service.
He assumed the identity of a boy who was born in Atlanta two years after his own birth in 1974. William Ladd died aged just four years old in a car crash in Washington State. William’s mother first learned of the deception when investigators visited her in July 2021.
Investigators traced Ricardo’s identity back to Brazil where they were able to compare fingerprints he submitted for his Brazillian identity documents back in the 1990s with the fingerprints he supplied to United Airlines in the name of Eric Ladd.
Technical staff at Customs and Border Protection compared the two sets of fingerprints and determined that they were a match.
Ricardo managed to obtain passport documents on six other occasions and even supported a residency application for his partner using his assumed identity.
But in his last passport renewal application in December 2020, fraud prevention managers at the State Department identified ‘various fraud indicators’ and ordered a criminal investigation.
He faces charges of false impersonation of a U.S. citizen, providing a false statement in a passport application and fraudulent entry into a secure area of an airport. The last charge was brought because Ricardo’s privileges as a U.S. flight attendant allowed him to bypass most TSA security checks with his ‘Known Crewmember’ status.
Federal agents finally arrested Ricardo after lying in wait for him at George Bush Intercontinental Aiport in Houston where they waited for him to pass through the KCM entrance. KCM status allows flight attendants to skip security screening unless they are randomly selected.
After watching Ricardo pass into the secure airside area of the airport, agents first observed him board a flight while holding an iPhone that said ‘Eric’s iPhone’ on the lock screen, before pouncing and placing him under arrest.
In a statement, United said Ricardo was no longer employed by the airline. “United has a thorough verification process for new employees that complies with federal legal requirements,” a statement from the carrier explained.
The case continues in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas in Houston. Case number: 4:21-cr-00517-1
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.