A man has been accused of installing a surveillance camera in the first-class lavatory of a recent United Airlines flight before the device was discovered by a woman who noticed an odd-looking blinking light while in the bathroom. And it may not have been the first time.
According to court records, the spy camera was discovered by a Houston area woman flying first class on United Airlines Flight 646 from San Diego to Houston on May 5. While visiting the plane’s lavatory, she observed an item with a blinking blue light situated near a door hinge inside.
Per court documents, the device “was loosely hanging and she wasn’t sure if the item was part of the aircraft, but thought it was odd. Once done in the lavatory, the identified female passenger stood up, grabbed the item with a paper towel, walked out of the lavatory and gave it to the flight crew.”
After the item was confirmed to be a video recording device by a United Airlines security team, footage recovered showed a man installing the camera in the plane’s lavatory, according to an FBI special agent’s signed affidavit filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York on August 5.
While his face was not shown, investigators were able to identify “distinctive” jewellery and clothing that were then matched against boarding footage obtained by the FBI in San Diego and identified the individual as Malaysian man Choon Ping Lee.
Inspecting the device further, the FBI in Houston recovered additional photos of two women on a separate lavatory on an Emirates flight. Court documents identified Lee as an employee of Halliburton, which, when contacted by the FBI, handed over travel information that indicated Lee had flown Emirates for work purposes.
The FBI says agents were also able to match jewellery observed in the installation video against jewellery worn by Lee in a real-time image of Lee at work supplied by Halliburton. In a statement, Halliburton said it is cooperating in the investigation.
“Halliburton is aware of the situation and is cooperating with the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office in their investigation,” a spokesperson for the company told Gizmodo by email. “We have a robust Code of Business Conduct and expect every employee to abide by the standards contained in the Code and all applicable laws.”
Lee was arrested Friday and faces a misdemeanour charge of video voyeurism. In a statement to Gizmodo by email, a spokesperson for United Airlines said that the company is cooperating fully with the ongoing investigation.
“The safety and security of our customers is our top priority,” the spokesperson said. “When our crew was alerted of this issue they acted quickly to notify the appropriate authorities.”
Neither Lee’s attorney nor Emirates immediately returned requests for comment.