USA: Founder Of Non-Profit Organization Sentenced To 36 Months In Prison For Defrauding Parents Of Abducted Children


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Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced that PETER SENESE, the Founding Director of the I CARE Foundation (“I CARE”), a purported non-profit organization allegedly dedicated to preventing child abduction and trafficking, was sentenced in Manhattan federal court today by U.S. District Naomi R. Buchwald to 36 months in prison for wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. In connection with the scheme, SENESE defrauded parents of international abduction victims by falsely representing that he could find and return the children to the United States in exchange for payments to fund his purported international rescue operation. SENESE pled guilty September 8, 2016.

 

Manhattan Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “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.”

 

As alleged in the Superseding Indictment and in other documents filed in federal court:

Between November 2013 and February 2015, on his websites (www.stopchildabduction.org and http://www.petersenese.com) and elsewhere, SENESE claimed falsely that I CARE was “a self-funded not-for-profit 501-C-3 corporation” that successfully “reunited numerous internationally kidnapped children” with their parents “while protecting an exponentially larger number of children from abduction.” SENESE credited I CARE’s success to the “great efforts, financial, legal, and investigative resources” of individuals associated with I CARE, including a team of former members of the U.S. Army component Delta Force. In one instance, SENESE represented to a parent-victim that he could recover her child from India, appearing on a local radio program with the parent-victim, and sending 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. Though he never traveled overseas or communicated with the child, SENESE collected over $70,000 from the parent-victim.

  • In addition to the prison sentence, SENESE, 51, of Brooklyn, New York, was ordered to pay restitution and forfeiture in the amount $85,100.

  • Mr. Kim praised the outstanding work of the FBI for its investigative efforts and ongoing support and assistance with the case.

 

  • The prosecution is being handled by the Office’s General Crimes Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Jaimie L. Nawaday is in charge of the case.

USA: Brooklyn Conman Offered False Hope To Parents Of Kidnapped Children


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A man who scammed parents of international kidnapping victims by telling them he could find their children in exchange for payments to his non-profit was sentenced to 36 months in prison yesterday, according to an announcement from the acting U.S. Attorney.

Peter Senese, a 51-year-old Brooklyn man, had pleaded guilty last year to wire fraud and conspiracy to commit wire fraud, for running a scheme from November 2013 to February 2015 in which he told parents that he could find their kidnapped children in exchange for donations to his non-profit called the I CARE Foundation. Senese claimed that I CARE had a slew of investigatory and legal resources working at its behalf, as well as former members of the U.S. Army’s Delta Force at his disposal.

In one instance, Senese took over $70,000 from one parent whose child was missing in India, appeared on a radio show with the parent and sent them a series of texts claiming he was in a remote part of India while never having left the country, and never actually helped secure the return of the child. He pulled a similar scam on a Queens parent but only got $5,000 out of them before a lawyer got involved. In addition to his scams relating to child kidnapping, Senese had done time in jail for writing bad checks to pay for a hot-air balloon wedding, was accused of scamming writers for a nonexistent TV show he claimed to be producing, and falsely testified as an expert in child kidnapping during hearings on a child kidnapping bill in Florida.

“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,” acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Joon H. Kim said in a statement following the sentencing.

USA: Con Man Jailed for Preying on Parents of Abducted Children


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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.

USA / Japan: US court rules against soldier, returns baby to Okinawa mom


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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — A 20-month-old girl returned to her Okinawa home from the United States last week — the island’s first child-return case under the Hague Convention on cross-border parental kidnapping since Japan joined the treaty in 2014.

In February, the U.S. Middle District Court in Florida ordered the child’s father — a Maryland-based U.S. soldier — to return the child to her mother on Okinawa, which the court acknowledged as the girl’s “habitual residence,” said attorney Masanori Takeda.

Child abduction has long been a concern for U.S. service members and some in Congress, who initially called on Tokyo to ratify the Hague Convention and have since called for tougher enforcement within Japan.

Cultural and legal obstacles in Japan — where child abduction by one parent isn’t always viewed as a crime — have previously prevented U.S. service members and other citizens from gaining custody or seeing their children in Japan.

In this case, a judge ultimately determined that a soldier had unlawfully kept his child from the mother.

The couple “had very limited language communications” when they married in 2014 and resided with the woman’s teenage son, according to a Florida court complaint filed by the woman.

In March 2015, the woman, then pregnant, and her son moved with the soldier to their new post in Maryland, Takeda said.

After reporting domestic and sexual abuse, the Army Family Advocacy Program helped her and her son return to Okinawa, where the child was born four months later.

That October, the woman was asked by her estranged husband to attend his brother’s wedding in Florida, said Takeda, who added the man yanked the baby from her arms during the visit.

A brief fight ensued, and the woman was arrested after the husband reported domestic violence to police. The woman was unable to explain her version of events in English, according to the complaint.

She was sent to a women’s shelter after the Florida Department of Children and Families acknowledged she was a victim of domestic violence. A social worker observed a 4-by-2-inch bruise on her neck and a “silver dollar sized” bruise on her thigh, according to the court complaint.

The mother said her husband had “choked her and again forced her to have sex against her will,” according to the complaint.

The husband denied the allegations and said she had subjected him to “extreme anger, aggression, and physical violence” going back to when they were stationed in Japan, according to court documents.

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Nevertheless, the soldier wrote to her in phone texts that he loved her and that “Me no like divorce talk … me no like back Okinawa talk,” according to court documents.

The soldier argued that his wife returned to the U.S. to join him to live, not just to visit.

The premise that she and the infant intended to remain in the United States was part of the reasoning that convinced a Florida court to grant the soldier custody, according to court documents.

The soldier’s lawyers asserted that the Hague Convention was not applicable to their case because of the Florida court’s judgment.

The mother’s attorneys contended “she had simply wanted a divorce and to return home to Japan with her children.”

Mari Kitada, a lecturer at Tokyo’s Kyorin University who’s an expert on the international parental child abduction treaty, said she believed the Hague Convention ruling was appropriate and consistent with the spirit of the treaty.

“While a U.S. court had awarded the father full parental custody, without the treaty, bringing the child back to Japan would have been impossible,” she said during a phone interview Thursday.

Kitada pointed to recent changes surrounding the pact in the international community, which began to focus more on a child’s best interests instead of solely focusing on the child’s habitual residence.Florida State Supreme Court

“As social complexities advance, various factors, to include domestic violence, must be carefully and thoroughly considered to protect the child’s safety and well-being,” she said.

According to the Hague Convention Affairs Office at Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 233 petitions for both child returns and visitation arrangements have been filed between April 1, 2014, and March 1, 2017.

Of those, 121 were requests for children to be returned to their habitual residence. Twenty-four of the cases involved parents from the U.S., a ministry spokesman said. The other 112

Australia: La Trobe Wodonga to host critical forum on needs of children and orphans


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LA TROBE University will host an education forum aimed at addressing issues in child and family welfare on Friday.class

Speakers from the North-East region and interstate will be discussing issues surrounding International Parental Child Abduction (IPCA), child rights, family law and international kinship care.

Dr Klaus Serr from La Trobe Wodonga said the forum was a chance for local agencies to hear and share their expertise relating to child welfare.

“The initial idea was to find people with expertise in child welfare and bring them to the region to offer expertise the people working here might not have had otherwise,” he said.

A big part of that was offering advice on how to work with the growing migrant population in Albury-Wodonga.

 Dr Serr’s work studies the needs of orphans in International Kinship Care, the placement of children with relatives (kin), with persons without a blood relation but who have a relationship with the child or family, or with persons from the child’s or family’s community.

“There are currently around 65 million refugees around the world, some of whom will invariably find their way to Australia and possibly here to our region,” Dr Serr said.

“People are coming here that have lost everything, and are coming here to be looked after by family members.

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“That can be highly problematic because we don’t know who they are.

“We have looked at that in my work, what do we know about these people.”

Fellow speaker Syd Balachandran, from Deakin Univerity, will discuss parenting orders in the Family Court.

Mr Balachandran said he was concerned regional areas would be most affected by cuts to community services.

“It’s a controversial topic, cuts (in regional areas like Albury-Wodonga) will have big effects on newly separated parents and especially on children,” he said.

“I’m focused on informing the community of how the family law works with regards to that.

“I’ll be trying to present information that focuses on the Family Law Act, and reiterating that the focus of the court must be on the best interests of the children.

“It will explain how that works in reality, try and demystify some of it for potentially affected people and professionals who aren’t necessarily lawyers but interact with the Family Court.”

‘Predatory fraudster’ says he was also father of abducted child


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A Brooklyn man who conned the mother of an abducted child into giving him thousands of dollars promising he’d lead a rescue mission after lying that he was a former Delta Force member begged for mercy at his sentencing Wednesday, trying to claim that he, too, was the father of an abducted child.

But the plan backfired and a Manhattan federal judge sentenced Peter Senese to three years in prison — tacking on an extra year to his expected sentence for trying to justify “a crime of unspeakable cruelty.”

“His effort at justifying his actions by suggesting he was traumatized makes it even crueler,” Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald said.

Senese, 51, was arrested in 2015 and charged with preying on the desperate parents of abducted children by falsely claiming that he could recover their children with the help of a team of former Delta Force members, including himself.

Prosecutors said Senese stole as much as $85,000 for these fake missions, including from Dr. Samina Rahman from Westchester, whose son was taken to India by his father.

The petite Rahman cried in court as she recalled how Senese duped her with elaborate lies, including telling her that he had rescued his own son from a cage in Macau after the kid had been kidnapped by a ring of sex traffickers. She also recalled how he went to the hospital where she worked to give her flowers he claimed were from her son.

Senese also messaged Dr. Rahman pretending to be on rescue missions for her son in exotic locales like Dubai and India while actually vacationing with his fiance in Florida, prosecutors said.

In an effort to reduce his sentence, Senese stated at the hearing that he only lied to Rahman about fake attempts to rescue her son because he wanted to protect her from the same pain he suffered when his son was taken from him.

“When I said I was going to India, I was trying to give you hope,” Senese said at his sentencing, speaking directly to Rahman. “I didn’t want you to know that pain. God!” he said.

The government said Senese, who they called a “predatory fraudster,” was lying about his son’s abduction, citing interviews with the college freshman.

In sentencing documents, Senese claimed his son was abducted by his mother — not sex traffickers — during an ugly international custody battle.

“We completely contest that any abduction occurred,” prosecutor Jamie Nawaday told the judge.

USA: International kidnapping in same-sex custody fight brings 3-year prison term


Isabella Miller-Jenkins. Missing Since Jan 1, 2010.

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Isabella Miller-Jenkins’ journey into the national spotlight began with a car ride to Buffalo when she was 7.

It also began with a high-profile, same-sex custody battle and a conspiracy to help her biological mother flee the country with her.

Seven years later, the conspiracy and that initial car ride are sending Virginia businessman Philip Zodhiates to prison for three years.

Convicted by a federal jury in Buffalo of taking part in an international parental kidnapping, Zodhiates was one of three men accused of orchestrating Lisa A. Miller’s escape to a Mennonite community in Nicaragua. She and Isabella, now 14, have never been found by authorities.

philipzodhiates-660x330On Wednesday, Zodhiates denied that his involvement with Miller was based, at all, on her previous same-sex civil union with Janet Jenkins in Vermont, a relationship that later dissolved and led to their custody fight. Jenkins, who took the witness stand in the case last year, told the jury that she intends to do “anything and everything” to bring her daughter back to the United States.

“In truth, I was not at all motivated by Lisa Miller’s and Janet Jenkins’ lifestyle,” Zodhiates told the court Wednesday. “That’s their choice and it’s not my role to change that.”

Zodhiates , a Virginia businessman, pointed to his core belief that “we’re put on earth to make a difference,” and said he acted out of a desire to help Miller, not a desire to deny Jenkins her parental rights.

Prosecutors, however, told a far different story of Zodhiates’ motivation and described him as a major player in the conspiracy to kidnap Isabella.

“This is not a case about helping someone,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul J. Van de Graaf. “He chose sides in a fight. And when you choose sides in a fight, you chose to hurt one side.”

Zodhiates’ sentence, which followed a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara, is the latest development in a case that has captured the nation’s interest and cast a spotlight on issues such as same-sex marriage and parental rights.

At the heart of the case is the allegation that Miller abducted Isabella in September of 2009 in an effort to keep her away from Jenkins and what Miller now calls “the homosexual lifestyle.”

Zodhiates was charged with helping Miller and her daughter make their way from Virginia to Buffalo Niagara International Airport and later Toronto, where they caught a plane to Nicaragua.

During the trial, prosecutors called a series of witnesses and presented a trail of emails intended to prove that Zodhiates helped Miller flee Virginia in an effort to keep Isabella away from Jenkins.

Van de Graaf and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael A. DiGiacomo argued during the trial that Miller’s decision to flee stemmed, in part, from her fear that Jenkins might ultimately win custody of their daughter. A Vermont court previously had given custody to Miller but gave Jenkins visitation rights.

In 2014, a federal grand jury in Buffalo indicted three people, including Miller and Zodhiates, on charges of conspiracy and international parental kidnapping.

Robert B. Hemley, one of Zodhiates’ defense lawyers, argued for leniency and pointed to the 286 letters of support filed with the court on his client’s behalf.

“They are important,” Hemley told Arcara, “because they’re a reflection of what he’s done to acquire so many friends.”

jwgBuffalo lawyer James W. Grable Jr. also represented Zodhiates.

Even before the indictment came down, Isabella’s disappearance garnered headlines across the country, in part because of the hot-button issues at the heart of the case.

Miller and Jenkins separated in late 2003 and eventually ended their civil union in Vermont. When Miller moved back to Virginia and tried to stop visits by Jenkins, the courts intervened and, at one point, appeared on the verge of transferring custody to Jenkins.

Prosecutors say that’s when Miller fled Virginia.

Sometime in late September 2009, she and Isabella arrived in Managua, Nicaragua, and were greeted by Timothy D. Miller, a Mennonite pastor.

Timothy Miller, who is no relation to Lisa Miller, pleaded guilty to conspiracy last year.

Zodhiates’ case was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Marshals Service.