- Kanubhai Patel, 38, of Vadodara, India, formerly of Edison, New Jersey, was arrested in England and extradited to the U.S. on Sept. 9, 2021.
An Indian American man who had been living in India was found guilty 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. Amitkumar Kanubhai Patel, 38, of Vadodara, India, formerly of Edison, New Jersey, was convicted on July 22 of one count of international parental kidnapping following a five-day trial before U.S. District Judge Renée Marie Bumb in Camden federal court, according to a Department of Justice press release.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, the child’s mother, a resident of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and Patel were in a relationship and resided together in New Jersey from August 2015 through July 2017. They were never married. In November 2016, they had a child who was born in Edison Township.
The child’s mother told the court that Patel wanted to take the child to India to introduce him to his parents and obtain DNA testing. He claimed that the testing was necessary for the child to claim property that his family owned in India. Patel attempted to obtain an Indian visa for the child when the child was approximately four months old, which was “denied because Patel did not have documentation of his custodial rights to the child,” the DoJ said.
So he 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. He then instructed the mother to tell the court that they had a mutual understanding regarding the custody of their child, and that she did not have a work permit, and since she was unemployed, she could not care for her child.
On May 1, 2017, Patel went to New Jersey Superior Court, Chancery Division Family Court, to obtain sole custody of the child. According to the child’s mother, the majority of the hearing was conducted in English with no translator. At the time of the hearing, the child’s mother spoke limited English. The mother answered the court’s questions as she had been instructed by Patel. She was not represented by an attorney during the hearing.
The following day, the court entered an order granting Patel sole legal custody of the minor child and allowing the mother to file for joint legal custody in the future. Upon receiving the court order, Patel obtained visas to India for himself and the child through Quick Travel Inc. Patel told the child’s mother the trip to India would be for two weeks. On July 26, 2017, Patel and the child traveled to India.
According to the DoJ press release, the child’s mother told prosecutors that she sent multiple messages to Patel requesting confirmation that the two arrived safely in India and got no response for several days. Patel eventually called her and said he would never bring the child back to the United States. The child’s mother obtained legal counsel, returned to the New Jersey Superior Court, and on Oct. 16, 2018, the court ordered Patel to immediately return the child to the United States.
However, Patel flew to England on Oct. 2, 2020 with his child, and was arrested on arrival on a provisional arrest request from the United States, according to the DoJ press release. “Following a custody hearing, a London court, guided by the Hague Convention, ruled that the best interest of the child was for him to be returned to his paternal grandparents in India,” the press release added.
Patel, however, was later extradited to the United States for trial. Court records show he was back in the country in September 2021, and was held in federal custody, the DoJ said. In February, a judge granted Patel’s release from custody to a person in Irvington.
The international parental kidnapping count carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 22.