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Former United flight attendant accused of stealing dead child's identity

Ricardo Cesar Guedes was born in August 1972 in São Paulo and began using William Ericson Ladd's name in 1998 when he first applied for a U.S. passport, authorities say.
United Airlines planes sit on the runway at Newark Liberty International Airport on Nov. 30, 2021, in Newark, N.J.
United Airlines planes on the runway on Nov. 30 at Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, N.J.Spencer Platt / Getty Images file

A Brazilian man is accused of stealing the identity of a dead U.S. child to obtain a U.S. passport and become a flight attendant for United Airlines, federal investigators said.

The man, Ricardo Cesar Guedes, 49, falsely assumed the identity of William Ericson Ladd, an Atlanta boy who died in a car crash in Washington state in August 1979, when he was 4 years old, a criminal complaint says.

While he was using the boy's name, Guedes obtained a U.S. passport, got married and took out a home mortgage, according to the complaint, which says he listed his occupation as a flight attendant for United Airlines.

A spokesperson for the airline confirmed that Guedes had worked for it but said he "is no longer employed at United Airlines."

"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 Tuesday.

Guedes was born in August 1972 in São Paulo and began using the boy's name in 1998 when he first applied for a U.S. passport, the complaint alleges.

He renewed his passport multiple times from 1998 to 2020 using the false information, the complaint alleges. In December 2020, the State Department flagged his application for “various fraud indicators," The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Agents said they observed Guedes "using the victim’s identity" to go through a crew members' checkpoint at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston. He was arrested at the airport in September, the complaint says.

The boy's mother confirmed her son's dates of birth and death and said she did not recognize the Social Security number Guedes used, according to the complaint. The complaint says the Social Security number was issued 17 years after the boy died.

Guedes was accused in an indictment of making false statements in a passport application, false impersonation of a U.S. citizen and entry by false pretenses to a secure area of an airport. A pretrial conference is scheduled for April.