CAMDEN – A former Edison man was convicted of one count of international parental kidnapping after failing to return a child to the United States when ordered to do so, according to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger.
Amitkumar Kanubhai Patel, 38, of Vadodara, India, who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, was convicted following a five-day trial before U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb in Camden federal court, according to a press release through the U.S. Attorney District of New Jersey on July 25.
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 Aug. 2015 through July 2017. The two never married. In Nov. 2016, Patel and the child’s mother had a child, who was born in Edison, according to the documents.
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, according to the documents.
On May 1, 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. The mother was not represented by an attorney during the hearing, according to the documents.
On May 2, 2017, the 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 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 then took the child to India and after several days in India, called the mother and said that he was never bringing the child back to the U.S. The child’s mother obtained legal counsel and returned to the New Jersey Superior Court. On Oct. 16, 2018, the New Jersey Superior Court entered an order directing Patel to return the child to the U.S. immediately, according to the documents.
On Oct. 19, 2018, the mother’s counsel emailed the Family Court Order on Oct. 16. 2018, to Patel, who did not return the child to the U.S. On Oct. 2, 2020, Patel and the child flew from India to the U.K. Upon arrival, Patel was arrested based on a provisional arrest request submitted by the U.S. 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 subsequently extradited to the U.S. to stand trial, according to the documents.
The international parental kidnapping offense of which Patel stands convicted carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 22, according to the press release.
Sellinger credited special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jacqueline McGuire in Philadelphia, with the investigation leading to the guilty verdict. Sellinger also thanked members of the Department’s Office of International Affairs, the U.K. Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police for their assistance in the extradition.