Brazilian Couple Convicted for International Kidnapping of Grandson
HOUSTON – A federal jury has convicted an international businessman and his wife of international parental kidnapping, announced U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick and Special Agent in Charge Perrye K. Turner of the FBI. The jury deliberated for more than two days following a 10-day jury trial before convicting Carlos Otavio Guimaraes, 67, and Jemima Guimaraes, 66.
“International parental kidnapping is a terrible crime,” said Patrick. “This jury of 12 heard heart-wrenching evidence of a father who just wants to see his little boy. I applaud today’s verdict and want everyone to know that our office will not rest until the mother is back on U.S. soil to face her own kidnapping charges.”
The jury heard that the child’s grandparents helped illegally retain the child in Brazil away from his father in Houston. The mother and minor child traveled to Brazil to attend a family event in July 2013, but were supposed to return to Houston no later than July 20, 2013. The child was never returned to the United States.
“The FBI is committed to investigating those who remove or attempt to remove a child from the United States, or retain a child outside the United States, with the intent to obstruct another parent's custodial rights,” said Turner.
During trial, the jury heard how the child’s mother allegedly orchestrated a plan to travel to Brazil for her brother’s wedding via an agreed travel agreement as part of the pending divorce. While in Brazil, she went to a Brazilian state court and obtained custody of the minor. From that moment forward, the father of the child was limited in his ability to visit with his son. The visits he did have were supervised by a guard hired by the child’s mother. Currently, despite a Harris County divorce ruling in 2015 favorable to the father, his ability to maintain a relationship with his son has been incredibly difficult. The child no longer speaks English, and the father had to learn Portuguese to navigate the Brazilian legal system and communicate with his son.
The child’s father testified and told the jury that all he ever wanted was for his son to return to Houston so he could be a constant presence in his life.
Evidence was also presented which included the fact that the grandparents support their daughter by providing housing and employment. Additionally, when the father would visit Brazi, Jemima was present for most of the exchanges of the child. Video evidence showed both Carlos, Jemima, the hired guard and their Brazilian attorney at one of the exchanges.
The defense attempted to convince the jury that the Brazilian court rulings should be respected despite the fact they disregard the father’s position. The rulings found the United States was not the place to raise a child in the “egotistical profile of the American family.”
The defense provided an expert on the Hague Convention to testify, but that expert was unable to give even one example of a child that has been returned from Brazil when the abducting parent was alive and domiciled in Brazil. Further, the expert acknowledge the U.S. State Department has found Brazil to be non-compliant with the provisions of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction since 2006.
The defense claimed the mother was fleeing from domestic violence, but evidence failed to support that claim. The jury ultimately found Carlos and Jemima Guimaraes guilty of international parental kidnapping.
A sentencing date is expected to be set at later date. At that time, the couple faces up to three years in federal prison.
They were permitted to remain on bond pending that hearing.
The child’s mother - Marcelle Guimaraes, 40 - is also charged but remains a fugitive in Brazil. She is presumed innocent unless and until convicted through due process of law.
The FBI conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sherri L. Zack and Kimberly Ann Leo are prosecuting the case.
“We thank AUSAs Zack and Leo for their commitment to bringing justice and a successful conclusion to this unique case,” said Turner. “Prosecutors generally have no control over the custodial decisions affecting the child or whether foreign authorities will order the return of the child.”
If you are a parent or legal custodian who has been deprived of your child through abduction, please see the Department of Justice’s International Parental Kidnapping webpage for more information.