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Press Release

Arrests Made for Transportation of Fresno County Teen to School in Missouri

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

FRESNO, Calif. — A parent and a onetime dean of a boarding school for troubled youth have been arrested for a scheme that took a teen against his will and transported him from California to Missouri, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

A federal indictment was unsealed Tuesday charging Shana Gaviola, 35, formerly of Clovis, and Julio Sandoval, 41, of Piedmont, Missouri, with violating a protective order that had been issued at the request of Gaviola’s son in July 2021. Sandoval was formerly the dean of students at a boarding school in Missouri. He was also the founder of an agency that transported minors to the boarding school.

According to court documents, in 2020, Gaviola’s son began living apart from Gaviola with another family. He petitioned for emancipation from Gaviola and obtained a domestic violence protection order against Gaviola from the Fresno County Superior Court. The order prohibited Gaviola from harassing, striking, threatening, assaulting, hitting, following, stalking, molesting, disturbing the peace, keeping under surveillance, and blocking the movements of her son, and contacting him in any way, including directly or indirectly, and from denying his use and possession of his phone. 

Despite the protection order, Gaviola and Sandoval made plans for Gaviola’s son to be forcibly transported from California to Missouri. On Aug. 21, 2021, individuals acting on behalf of Gaviola and Sandoval found the minor at a business in Fresno, handcuffed him, and forced him into a car. He remained in handcuffs for over 24 hours while they drove to Stockton, Missouri. He was then held at the boarding school until his father was able to free him.

This case is the product of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Fresno Police Department, and the Clovis Police Department. Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael G. Tierney is prosecuting the case. Assistance was provided by the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Western District of Missouri and the Eastern District of Missouri.

If convicted, each defendant faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Updated August 31, 2022