A New York man, who conned desperate parents of internationally abducted children into giving him thousands of dollars by falsely telling them he could find and return their youngsters safely, was sentenced to three years in prison Wednesday.
Peter Senese, 51, a Brooklyn resident and the founding director of the I CARE Foundation (“I CARE”), a purported non-profit organization allegedly dedicated to preventing child abduction and trafficking, faced Manhattan federal court U.S. District Judge Naomi Buchwald, who sentenced the scam artist to serve the 36 months on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York. The court also ordered Senese to pay restitution and forfeiture in the amount $85,100 to victims of his ruse.
The New York Post reported Senese begged for mercy when facing Buchwald and claimed he, too, was the father of an abducted child. However, the feds did not bite and said Senese, who they called a “predatory fraudster,” lied about his son’s abduction. The boy was taken by his mother, not sex traffickers, in an ugly international custody battle years ago.
“In this most cruel and heartbreaking criminal scheme, Peter Senese preyed on the most vulnerable and desperate victims, anguished parents of abducted children. Senese did more than just steal his victims’ money – he robbed them of hope. For seeking personal profit out of others’ pain and tragedy, Senese has been convicted of federal crimes and will now do time in a federal prison. We hope this prosecution provides some measure of justice to those who were so callously victimized by Senese,” said Manhattan Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim at the sentencing hearing.
The government originally arrested and charged Senese in March 2015. Then, in September 2016, he pleaded guilty to charges that he ran schemes between November 2013 and February 2015 on two websites and elsewhere, falsely claiming the I CARE was a “self-funded not-for-profit 501-C-3 corporation” that successfully “reunited numerous internationally kidnapped children from abduction.” Senese also presented I CARE as part of a strong network of “financial, legal, and investigative resources at their disposal and a team of former members of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force,” which was false.
Court documents revealed that Senese once represented himself to a parent-victim that he could recover her child from India. He appeared on a local radio program with the parent-victim and sent numerous text messages and emails to the parent-victim stating falsely that he was in a “remote location” in India, was communicating with her child, and that the child would be returned to the United States in a matter of hours or days. However, Senese never traveled overseas or communicated with the child but collected over $70,000 from the parent-victim.
The U.S. Attorneys said Senese had not traveled outside of the country in years. Although he represented himself in foreign countries, he was actually in Miami, New York, or Los Angeles. Senese never had any affiliation with the United States military, either. He never located, found, or brought home safely any children he promised to return.