A Brazilian man took on the name of a deceased American citizen and fooled officials into obtaining him a passport under his new identity.
Prosecutors claim he became a United Airlines flight attendant using an illegally obtained U.S. passport, evading standard airport security rules.
Ricardo Cesar Guedes was known for 23 years as Willian Ericson Ladd, which he shortened to Eric Ladd, after persuading a passport agent to grant him a US passport in the name of a youngster who had died over two decades ago.
According to officials from the Diplomatic Security Service, Ricardo was a Brazilian national who was born in Sao Palao in 1972 and had no legal authority to live or work in the United States.
He assumed the identity of a boy born in Atlanta in 1974, two years after his own. William Ladd, who was just four years old at the time, was killed in an automobile accident in Washington State. When detectives came to see William’s mother in July 2021, she found out about the deception.
Ricardo’s identity was traced back to Brazil, where investigators were able to compare fingerprints he gave for his Brazilian identity documents in the 1990s with fingerprints he provided to United Airlines under the name Eric Ladd.
Customs and Border Protection technical team compared the two sets of fingerprints and decided that they were identical.
Ricardo was able to secure passport documents on six additional occasions and even supported his partner’s residency application using his fictitious identity.
However, fraud prevention managers at the State Department found ‘several fraud flags’ in his most recent passport renewal application in December 2020, and initiated a criminal inquiry.
He is accused of impersonating a U.S. citizen, making a false statement on a passport application, and entering a secure section of an airport fraudulently. Ricardo’s privileges as a United States flight attendant permitted him to avoid most TSA security inspections due of his ‘Known Crewmember’ status.
After lying in wait for Ricardo at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, where they waited for him to walk through the KCM door, federal investigators ultimately apprehended him.
Flight attendants with KCM status are exempt from security screening unless they are randomly selected.
Agents spotted Ricardo board a flight while clutching an iPhone that said ‘Eric’s iPhone’ on the lock screen before pouncing and arresting him after witnessing him pass through the airport’s guarded airside area.
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 is still pending at Houston’s United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas. 4:21-cr-00517-1 is the case number.