Chinese National Convicted Of Attempted International Parental Kidnapping
Jury Returns Guilty Verdict in Case Involving Return of United Airlines Flight to China
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Wenjing Liu, 32, of Tianjin, China, was convicted today by a federal jury on charges of international parental kidnapping.
Dana J. Boente, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; and Andrew G. McCabe, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after the verdict was accepted by U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton.
Liu was indicted on November 6, 2014. According to court records and evidence at trial, on September 4, 2014, Liu accompanied her four-year-old son on a United Airlines direct flight to China. Liu and her husband, the child’s father, were separated but had joint legal custody of the child. Less than 90 minutes before the flight was scheduled to depart Dulles International Airport, Liu sent an email to her estranged husband to advise that she and their son were flying to China that day. The father, who had court-ordered visitation every weekend, emailed Liu back and expressed his opposition to the child going to China. The child’s father then traveled to Dulles International Airport in hopes of stopping Liu from taking their son onto the plane.
Upon arriving at the airport, the father approached officers with the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), advised them of his estranged wife’s email, and provided a copy of the court order that provided him with weekend visitation. That court order also prohibited either parent from taking their child out of the United States without first obtaining express written notarized consent from the other parent. The MWAA officers contacted United Airlines, who advised that Liu and the child were on board Flight 897, and that the plane had already departed Dulles International Airport on its way to Beijing, China.
After consulting with MWAA and the FBI and when Flight 897 was in Canadian airspace, United Airlines ordered Flight 897 to return to Dulles International Airport. The plane returned approximately 4 hours after it had taken off, and Ms. Liu was arrested for attempted international kidnapping as soon as she got off the plane.
Liu faces a maximum penalty of three years in prison when sentenced on June 5, 2015. The maximum statutory sentence is prescribed by Congress and is provided here for informational purposes, as the sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the court based on the advisory Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
This case was investigated by the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Rebeca H. Bellows and Carina A. Cuellar are prosecuting the case.
A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia or on PACER by searching for Case No. 1:14-cr-372.