A 38-year-old Indian-American has been convicted of international parental kidnapping after he took his US-born child to India and later failed to bring the kid back to the mother in the United States.
Amitkumar Kanubhai Patel from Vadodara, who formerly lived in Edison, New Jersey, was convicted last week of one count of international parental kidnapping following a five-day trial before US District Judge Renee Marie Bumb in Camden federal court in New Jersey.
The international parental kidnapping offense of which Patel stands convicted carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a maximum fine of USD 250,000. He will be sentenced in November this year.
Patel is a naturalised US citizen who had been living in India. He was convicted of obstructing the parental rights of his child's mother by kidnapping the child and failing to return the child to the United States when ordered to do so, US Attorney Philip R Sellinger said Monday.
According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial, the child's mother and Patel were in a relationship and resided together in New Jersey from August 2015 through July 2017.
The two never married. In November 2016, they had a child, who was born in Edison Township.
According to the child's mother, Patel wanted to take the child to India to introduce him to Patel's parents and obtain DNA testing, which Patel claimed was necessary for the child to claim property that Patel's family owned in India.
Patel also told the child's mother that in order to obtain an Indian visa for the child, he would need to secure sole custody, which required them to go to court.
Patel instructed the mother to tell the court that they had a mutual understanding regarding the custody of their child. Patel instructed the mother to state that she did not have a work permit, and since she was unemployed, she could not care for her child.
In May 2017, Patel took the child's mother to New Jersey Superior Court, Chancery Division Family Court, in order to obtain sole custody of the child.
According to the mother, the majority of the hearing was conducted in English with no translator. At the time of the hearing, the mother spoke limited English. The mother answered the court's questions as she had been instructed by Patel and was not represented by an attorney during the hearing.
The New Jersey Superior Court granted Patel sole legal custody of the child premised on the consent of the child's mother to the arrangement, but specifically reserved for the mother the ability to file for joint legal custody if she so chose in the future.
Upon receiving the court order, Patel obtained visas to India for himself and the child, and booked air travel, telling the child's mother that they would only be gone for two weeks to a month.
Patel took the child to India in July 2017 and after several days in India, called the mother and said that he was never bringing the child back to the United States.
The child's mother obtained legal counsel and returned to the New Jersey Superior Court.
In October 2018, the New Jersey Superior Court entered an order directing Patel to return the child to the United States immediately. The mother's counsel emailed the family court order to Patel, who did not return the child to the United States.
In October 2020, Patel and the child flew from India to the United Kingdom.
Upon arrival, Patel was arrested based on a provisional arrest request submitted by the United States.
After a custody hearing in London pursuant to the Hague Convention, the London Court ordered it was in the best interest of the child that the child be returned to his paternal grandparents in India. Patel was extradited to the United States in September 2021 from England to stand trial in the case.