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Globe-trotting fathers plead guilty to kidnapping charges

May 11, 2012 |  8:52 pm

Two fathers who grabbed their sons from their mothers, then fled the country and traveled the world for more than two years, have pleaded guilty to federal kidnapping charges, authorities said Friday.

George Silah, 49, took his two sons and his brother, John, 51, took his son after receiving a phone message warning that their families would be killed, said Matt Kohn, the brothers’ defense attorney. The threat stemmed from "business complications," but Kohn declined to elaborate.

Prosecutors said the two men promised to help some business associates repair damaged credit. They obtained the clients’ Social Security numbers and then the clients noticed money disappearing, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Justin Rhoades.

Both men were divorced and had only partial legal custody of their sons in July 2008 when they disappeared, according to prosecutors.

The Silahs left the U.S. through Mexico, went through Central America and touched down in Greece before the FBI located them in the Netherlands in November 2010. The mothers flew to Europe to collect the boys and bring them back to Los Angeles.

Both men are medical doctors and were able to tutor the boys -- all of them are in their early teens -- while on the run.

"They didn’t lose out on any education," Kohn said. "The only thing they lost was the companionship of their mothers."

George Silah faces up to six years in federal prison for two counts of "international parental kidnapping." John Silas could spend up to three years behind bars. Both are scheduled for sentencing later this month.


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-- Jack Dolan