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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Virginia Man Sentenced For International Parental Kidnapping

CONTACT:      Barbara Burns
PHONE:         (716) 843-5817
FAX:            (716) 551-3051

BUFFALO, N.Y.-Acting U.S. Attorney James P. Kennedy, Jr. announced today that Philip Zodhiates, 61, of Waynesboro, Virginia, who was convicted by a federal jury of international parental kidnapping and conspiracy to commit international parental kidnapping, was sentenced to 36 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara.
 
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Paul Van de Graaf and Michael DiGiacomo, who handled the prosecution of the case, stated that beginning in 2009, the defendant conspired with Lisa Miller to take Miller’s then seven-year-old daughter from Virginia to Nicaragua. Zodhiates transported Miller and the child to the Buffalo area where the two crossed over the Rainbow Bridge Port of Entry into Canada. Miller and the child then flew from Toronto, Ontario to Nicaragua. After arriving in Nicaragua, Miller was sheltered and assisted by others who had been recruited by Zodhiates. Miller and the child have not been seen since. 

According to evidence presented by the Government, the kidnapping was an attempt to obstruct the parental rights of Miller’s former partner from a civil union that took place in the State of Vermont. The child was born during the period of the civil union and the State of Vermont accordingly governed the parental rights of both Miller and her former partner.  

Lisa Miller is also charged with international parental kidnapping and conspiracy to commit international parental kidnapping but remains a fugitive. Also charged in this case is Timothy Miller (no relation) from Nicaragua. He was recently arrested after being deported by Nicaragua and is due to appear at a later date in the Western District of New York.

A fourth defendant, Kenneth Miller (also not related) from Virginia, was charged and convicted of international parental kidnapping in the District of Vermont in 2012. Kenneth Miller is currently serving a 27-month prison sentence.      

The sentencing is the culmination of an investigation by the Vermont Office of the United States Marshal’s Service, under the direction of David Damag, and the Vermont Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Andrew Vale, Special Agent-in-Charge.

Updated March 23, 2017