City News Service
May 29, 2012 Tuesday 1:42 PM PST

The first of two Syrian-Armenian brothers who took their sons out
of the country without the consent of the children's mothers was
sentenced today in Los Angeles to 27 months behind bars.

George Silah, a 49-year-old U.S. citizen, was extradited from the
Netherlands last October and pleaded guilty in February to two counts
of international parental kidnapping.

According to federal prosecutors, George Silah and his 51-year-old
brother left the United States in July 2008, taking with them his two
sons and John Silah's only son. Months later, the boys' anguished
mothers appeared on TV's "Dr. Phil" begging for their return or at
least word of their safety. George Silah's 16-year-old son Alex told
U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II that he was able to call his
mother during the two years he spent abroad with his father, brother,
uncle and cousin, but chose not to.

"I knew if I called my mom, my dad would go to jail," the teen said,
calling his father "a hero."

Wright said the act of taking the boys out of the country without
notice was designed to "inflict as much psychic harm as possible"
on the former spouses.

The father, however, told Wright that while he had made the wrong
decision by running, the move was prompted by threats he said he had
received from former business clients who had apparently lost money
to him.

"I should have most probably left (the boys) with their mothers,
but I was in panic mode," Silah said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Justin R. Rhoades said there is "strong
evidence" that George Silah was involved in a fraudulent business
scheme, but disagreed with the defendant's explanation that he fled
with the boys to protect them.

The prosecutor said the Silah brothers embarked on a "calculated" and
"well-planned" effort to flee from those who were defrauded before they
"caught on."

As for the teen-ager's insistence that he was always free to
telephone his mother anytime during the two years, Rhoades said
"that never happened." The father never allowed such an opportunity,
the prosecutor said.

The boy's claims to the contrary are perhaps evidence of Stockholm
syndrome, a phenomenon where kidnap victims, over time, become
sympathetic to their captors, Rhoades told the judge.

In any case, Silah defense attorney Matthew D. Kohn argued, the boys
received a mind-broadening education while they lived outside the
country, returning home "smarter" and "wiser." Their father hired
tutors for them and kept them healthy and happy, the attorney said.

"There were positives," Kohn said.

Following his release from prison, Silah must serve a year under
supervised release, including 20 hours of community service per week,
Wright ordered.

When they fled, the Silah brothers were divorced from the boys'
mothers and had only partial legal custody of their sons, who lived
in the San Fernando Valley.

Over the next two years, the group traveled through Mexico, Central
America and Europe. In November 2010, the Silah brothers and their
sons were found in the Netherlands and detained. The boys' mothers
then flew to the Netherlands, where they were reunited with their sons.

John Silah, a citizen of Syria, was brought to the United States
in March and pleaded guilty to one count of international parental
kidnapping. Sentencing is set for Aug. 6.