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Brother Who Took Sons On International Odyssey Sentenced To 27 Month

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  • Brother Who Took Sons On International Odyssey Sentenced To 27 Month


    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.