NEW ORLEANS (DOJ) – Kidus Awlachew, age 33, a resident of New Orleans, Louisiana, pleaded guilty today before United States District Judge Jay Zainey after previously being charged in a one-count bill of information with international parental kidnapping.
According to court records, Awlachew and Person 1, an adult female, began dating in about 2018. Soon thereafter, Person 1 and her daughter, Minor Victim, moved into Awlachew’s residence. Between 2018 and January 2022, Awlachew often voluntarily acted in a parental capacity toward Minor Victim.
In about December 2021, Awlachew told Person 1 that he wanted to take Minor Victim to Ethiopia to experience a different culture for about one month. Based on those representations, Person 1 agreed. In fact, Awlachew intended to keep Minor Victim in Ethiopia for more than one month.
Thereafter, Awlachew purchased tickets for he and Minor Victim to travel to Ethiopia on January 14, 2022, and to return on February 21, 2022. Awlachew and Minor Victim did not return on February 21. On numerous occasions, Person 1 inquired why Awlachew had not returned with Minor Victim and to demand that he do so. Awlachew either ignored the inquiries or provided a false justification for not returning. Moreover, Awlachew usually did not allow Person 1 to correspond directly with Minor Victim.
Law enforcement authorities recovered the Minor Victim from Awlachew’s custody in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and took Awlachew into custody, on July 20, 2022. United States law enforcement authorities arranged for Minor Victim to be returned to New Orleans and reunited with her mother. Awlachew was returned to the United States on August 24, 2022.
Awlachew faces up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000.00, up to one year of supervised release after imprisonment, and a mandatory $100 special assessment fee. Sentencing before Judge Zainey has been scheduled for June 13, 2023, at 10:30 am.
“The ending in this case might have been much different without the coordination and cooperation between national and international partners,” said FBI New Orleans Special Agent in Charge Douglas A. Williams, Jr. “We thank the Louisiana State Police, the State Department, our fellow agents in Addis Ababa, and the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia for bringing this case to a swift and positive conclusion.”