Veteran flight attendant’s arrest at IAH reveals complex details of passport scams

William Ericson Ladd was born Sept. 14, 1974, in Atlanta. He died a month before his fifth birthday in a car accident. On what would have been Ladd’s 47th birthday, a flight attendant named William Ericson Ladd entered a secure crew member entrance at Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport, where customs officials conducted an extensive interrogation.

Investigators say the senior United Airlines flight attendant had posed as the long-dead Georgia boy for two decades. Ultimately, he admitted to federal agents he was Ricardo César Guedes, a 49-year-old who owned a Lake Houston home, got married, bought a BMW, took out a loan and worked as a flight attendant, including 40 trips for United in 2020 — all in Ladd’s name.

Guedes is detained pending trial for impersonating a U.S. citizen, entering a secure airport area with fake documents and passport fraud.

In the past five years, the Diplomatic Security Service has opened an average of 2,000 passport fraud cases yearly, investigating such cases. Special agents stationed in 86 countries track down evidence for the State Department along with partner law enforcement units in 15 countries.

A review of local prosecutions reveals Guedes is among several defendants accused of playing the long game, spending years constructing a fake identity based on a pile of real documents that belong to someone else. Guedes also used Ladd’s identity to sponsor his spouse’s…

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