A Brazilian national has been arrested for allegedly stealing the identity of a four-year-old Atlanta boy who died in a car crash in 1979 – and building a life in the US that included working as a United Airlines flight attendant for more than 20 years.
Ricardo Cesar Guedes, 49, is facing federal charges of providing a false statement in a passport application, falsely impersonating a US citizen and entering an airport secure area under false pretenses due to his job as a flight attendant, which allowed him to pass through security checkpoints at many American airports.
Federal prosecutors claim in a criminal complaint filed in the Southern District of Texas that Guedes stole the identity of William Ericson Ladd, of Atlanta, who died just one month before his fifth birthday in a 1979 car crash in Washington State.
Authorities say Guedes, who lives in Lake Houston, Texas, came to the US sometime in the mid-1990s and overstayed his tourist visa.
He began using a Social Security card in Ladd’s name 17 years after the boy died and applied for a passport in Ladd’s name in 1998, according to the Houston Chronicle.
Guedes apparently had no connection to the boy and officials did not reveal how he managed to get the dead boy’s Social Security number.
However, once he had the information, Guedes bought a Lake Houston home, got married, bought a BMW, took out a mortgage and started his career at United as an illegal immigrant, according to the Chronicle.
He is now being detained pending a trial, and a United Airlines spokesperson confirmed to Business Insider that Guedes has been fired in the wake of the scandal.
DailyMail.com has reached out to his attorney for comment.
Ricardo Cesar Guedes, 49, is facing criminal charges for allegedly stealing the identity of William Ericson Ladd, of Atlanta, who died just one month before his fifth birthday in a 1979 car crash in Washington State
Guedes worked as a flight attendant for United Airlines for 23 years under his assumed name
He is now facing federal charges of providing a false statement in a passport application, falsely impersonating a US citizen and entering an airport secure area under false pretenses due to his job as a flight attendant
William Ericson Ladd was born in 1974 to William Francis Ladd and Debra Lynn Ladd (nee Hays) in Atlanta. Speaking to federal prosecutors, Debra confirmed that her son had died and said she did not remember whether he had a Social Security number.
Guedes, meanwhile, was born in Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1972, but assumed Ladd’s identity in the mid-1990s.
He renewed his passport six times since 1998 until December 2020 when the State Department flagged his application for ‘various fraud indicators’ after the fingerprints he had used for his application matched those Guedes submitted for his Brazilian national identity document in the 1990s.
Federal agents also obtained records from Brazilian law enforcement officials who advised them that Maria Auxiliadora Duarte Guedes was Ricardo’s mother.
When they asked Maria about her son, she said she did not know anyone by the name of Eric Ladd, but admitted her son lived in the United States.
Photos posted on ‘Eric Ladd’s’ social media also showed him with Maria Guedes, the Chronicle reported, and traveling to other countries as a flight attendant with a badge showing he spoke Portuguese.
Photos posted to social media showed Guedes, under the name Eric Ladd, traveling to other countries with a pin listing that he speaks Portuguese
Guedes allegedly bought this house in Lake Houston – and took out a mortgage for it – under Ladd’s name
Guedes was arrested at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston in September as he tried to board a flight while holding a phone that was labeled ‘Eric’s iPhone’ on the screen.
When confronted by the federal officials, the Houston Chronicle reported, he identified himself as ‘William Ericson Ladd.’
An official then reportedly told him that it is a federal crime to lie, at which point Guedes said he was born in the United States but was raised by his missionary parents in Brazil.
The officer then notified him that the government had a death certificate for William Ericson Ladd, making Guedes go silent, according to court documents, before showing Guedes a picture of William Ericson Ladd’s gravesite in Alabama.
Eventually, the Chronicle reports, Guedes signed a new fingerprint sheet identifying himself as ‘Ricardo Guedes.’
As officials placed him under arrest, he told them: ‘I had a dream and the dream is over.
‘Now I have to face reality.’