Saturday, December 25, 2010

Orange County Children Kidnapped by Father Recovered and Returned to U.S. After Joint Operation by International and American Law Enforcement Officials

Through the cooperation of several international government and law enforcement agencies, three children that were kidnapped by their father earlier this year were recovered overseas and returned to the United States Wednesday, announced Steven Martinez, Assistant Director of the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office and André Birotte Jr, the United States Attorney for the Central District of California.

The father of the victims, Michael Mobin Meskal, 45, is suspected of taking the children out of the country in violation of the parental rights of the victims' mother. Meskal, a Syrian citizen, was charged in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Santa Ana, California, with international parental kidnapping, a violation of Title 18, U.S.Code, Section 1204(a).

According to the complaint, the victims' mother, Natasha Meskal, discovered that her husband and children were missing upon her return from business travel in August 2010. Natasha Meskal later learned that her husband had taken her children to Syria without her permission. Natasha Meskal then traveled to Syria, where her children had been enrolled in school and was told that the defendant refused to return them to the United States, the complaint alleges.

On November 29, 2010, Natasha Meskal contacted detectives with the Fountain Valley Police Department to report that her husband had abducted her three children. Fountain Valley detectives initiated an investigation. When it had been determined that the children were taken overseas without the mother's consent, the FBI joined the investigation.

On December 9, 2010, Michael Meskal agreed to travel with his children to Croatia to meet with their mother. Natasha Meskal purchased plane tickets for her husband and three children to Zagreb, Croatia, and traveled there to meet them. The federal criminal complaint was filed and a federal arrest warrant issued on December 10, 2010.

Agents with the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office collaborated with FBI legal attaché offices, the State Department, and Interpol officials overseas in order to enlist the assistance of law enforcement authorities in Croatia in recovering the victim children and to arrest the defendant.

Based upon the local missing children reports and the federal arrest warrant, Interpol's National Central Bureau in Washington, D.C., issued three Missing Person Diffusions and one Wanted Person Diffusion directly to Interpol Croatia's Bureau in Zagreb.

When the defendant traveled with the children to Croatia on December 15, police officials in Croatia, based upon the Interpol diffusions, arrested the defendant and reunited the children with their mother.

After being successfully reunited with her children in Croatia, Natasha Meskal and her children returned to the United States late Wednesday afternoon.

Michael Meskal and Natasha Meskal are legally married and at the time of the abduction, there was no formal custody agreement between them. Natasha Meskal has since filed for divorce and an emergency order in California seeking full custody of her children.

The United States government will seek Meskal's extradition based on the pending federal charges. Meskal is currently being held by law enforcement authorities in Croatia.

The Regional Security Officer (RSO) in Zagreb was instrumental in coordinating the assistance of Croatian authorities and securing the return of the children to their mother.

The successful arrests and recovery of the children would not have been possible without the international cooperation of the following law enforcement agencies:

RSO at U.S. Embassy Zagreb for Legat Vienna
The FBI's Legal Attaché in Vienna, Austria
Croatian Police, Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of Croatia
The FBI's Legal Attaché in Budapest, Hungary
The FBI's Legal Attaché in Amman, Jordan
Fountain Valley Police Department
The FBI's Los Angeles Field Office
Interpol National Central Bureau - Washington, D.C.
Interpol - National Central Bureau, Zagreb, Croatia
The United States Attorney's Office, Central District of California
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of International Affairs
U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Consular Affairs, Office of Childrens' Issues

A criminal complaint contains allegations that a defendant has committed a crime. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty in court.

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