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International Child Abduction: The Story of Georgie
(provided by George Massie)
These days T. V. magazines and newspapers are full of stories of parents kidnapping their children and taking them from the other parent without warning. Most of these have shown the father abducting children from mothers. My story is different but altogether too common where the mother has taken the children. The most surprising aspect has been the authorities, through incompetence, honest mistakes, transparent conspiracy in the case of a Chilean judge, and confusion have assisted the mother and her in this and continue to assist her.
My story starts four years ago when my wife fled the U.S. without warning. Before that I had a family, children, a nice home, two new cars, my own lucrative business and money in a savings account. Very much in love I married Gabriela Marcenaro Landa a divorcee with two children from a previous marriage in 1989. In 1990 we had our first child my only child a so we named him George Welton Massie IV and we called him Georgie. Life could nor have been better. There were some problems between her and my stepchildren's father because she continually blocked his visitation, a mode of behavior she later turned against me. But life was good until that fateful day in November 1993 when she ran away and kidnapped my son. What happened after that is a tale of dishonesty cruelty and pain, pain that continues to this day. Two fathers, myself and Salvador Landa do not have our children anymore and no right anyone will enforce to be able to see them. How in this modern world of communications, legal systems, and international law could this have happened?
On November 3,1993 my aged mother living in Dallas was forced for health reasons to sell the family home and move to Arizona where she could get medical care. I drove the 1,400 miles from Miami to help her. While I was driving, unknown to me, my wife was packing the children's toys and clothes, taking the money from our savings account and buying airplane tickets to her native Chile. Just as I arrived in Dallas she called and said "I am sorry but I have taken your son (Georgie then 3 1/2 years old ) and gone to Chile you probably won't see him again". She also took the children from her previous marriage Salvador's children Gabriella 9 and Nicolas 6. There was no warning for me or Salvador, the shock was tremendous.
That same night in disbelief and despair I flew back to Miami to see if it could be true, to see if something could be done. I was picked up at the airport by Georgie's Godfather Florida State Fire Marshall Antonio Samper and we went to my home. The emotional strain as we approached the house was unbearable, hoping against hope that somehow it wasn't true. The house was dark and as the front door was opened. whether by the wind or curious fate, Georgie's wind up mobile started playing a forlorn "Old McDonald Had a Farm" in a dirge as only a windup toy, spring force almost depleted, can sound. But the house was empty not just empty but empty in a way only a house that had once been full of children's laughter can be. I wept uncontrollably in shock and pain. That same night I called the Metro Dade Police (Miami) and ask them to come make a report. They told me it wasn't their problem because we were still married it was a domestic issue. Anthony Samper picked up the phone and demanded they make a report, Again they refused. The next day I called the Florida State Attorney's Office and the U.S. Attorney's Office and was told the same thing it's a domestic problem they couldn't help. I contacted lawyers both here and in Chile and was told the same thing. There was nothing I could do... nothing. Much later I found that this advice was terribly wrong , it is a sad fact that so many people in authority have no idea how to handle this problem and that their advice forced me to do things that would make justice even more difficult, if not impossible, to obtain. It seemed the only way I could ever see my son was to go to Chile to live close enough to help him to somehow be his Dad.
I was frantic my wife's actions were clearly not of a mentally balanced person. Recent psychological evaluation of her was very clear in stating she has deep problems. Georgie and the other kids were in danger. If there were problems with the marriage there is simple separation and divorce, certainly not taking an action as radical as this. I tried to reach her by phone but she had gone into hiding near Chillan, Chile with the help of her brother Jorge.
In Chile Gabriela had entered the country illegally, she had used a Chilean passport but she is a naturalized U.S. citizen and dual nationality isn't allowed there, although I found out later their laws are "flexible". She had registered Georgie under another name and had registered him as an illegitimate child for his "new" Chilean birth certificate. All of this I discovered later. After she arrived there she found that the money she had taken with her (she removed $25,000 from our joint savings account before she left ) wouldn't last very long. Without a place to live or a car her future there was not bright. Later she agreed that if I were to ship her a car to her I could visit George, could see him and be with him. Clearly the pattern of blackmail was beginning with a 3 1/2 year old child and his father's love for him the tools she would use. I believed I had no choice but to comply. Over the next months I traveled to Chile and during that period she allowed me to see Georgie more and more. She agreed that, provided I would invest in a business and a farm in Chillan, Chile I could move there and we could try to work things out. To do this, to raise the money, I had to sell all the personal things I could, withdraw all the savings we had left and move all my family belongings to Chile. Perhaps, I reasoned, over time I could convince her to return to the US. Because of what all the authorities had said if I was really to help my son Georgie this was the only way. I couldn't kidnap him as she did, he had been through enough and I believe all kids deserve a Mom and a Dad. If there is any possibility to give him both I would.
I financed the purchase of a store and its inventory a farm and a truck at a cost of $200,000. I was told by the Chilean Consulate in Miami that before I could put anything in my name or be involved in any financial transactions I had to have Chilean residency so I applied for that. Because Chile has community property laws I was advised by Chilean lawyers it wasn't important that the property I paid for prior to obtaining residency was in her name, her Chilean name. Later I found out how wrong that was. Being desperate to be with my only child and reunite my family I moved to Chillan, Chile in August of 1994.
For a short while we had a family again. In a strange land, in a third world country, but nevertheless a family. The family lasted until my U.S. money ran out in February 1995. When that happened she called the police and said we weren't married legally (she had not registered our U.S. marriage in Chile as she said she had) They demanded I leave the apartment immediately. They also said I wasn't Georgie's legal father because she had registered him as illegitimate in Chile so I had no right to see him. But it got worse, much worse. The shop, the farm, the truck, were hers not mine! I was on the street, no money, no transportation, no son. She even took the only cash money I had from my locked brief case along with my passport and other personal papers This was all condoned in Chile, the police supported her actions. A country that is striving to be a part of the modern industrial group of nations. If the story ended here it would relate enough pain but it doesn't. Because she had signed all the documents for our farm as a single person she was able to sell it to her brother and keep the money. Because when she set up the children's prepaid college fund in Florida in 1991 she listed herself as the sole beneficiary she was able to take their money and keep it for herself. Stealing their future. After forcing me from our apartment she blocked me from visitation with my son, It seemed I had no place to turn for help.
Again I tried to get legal help. It was impossible to believe that this could happen in any civilized country, that I had lost everything but the most important thing to me was that my son was kept from me. I hired a Chilean lawyer just to be able to see my son. But the local Judge was sick so nothing happened. Later I learned from her that the Family Court Judge was a friend of hers. Gabriela still kept Georgie from me. Surely I thought this kind of total disregard of a son's rights, a father's rights, rights of a legal marriage and its responsibility wasn't possible.
A glimmer of hope the Hague Convention, an international treaty for the return of abducted children was explained to me by the U.S. State Department..again a dead end Chile didn't sign it until July of 1994. No help to me because it isn't retroactive, she kidnapped the kids to Chile scant months before Chile signed it. But there is part of the Convention that provides for return of children for visitation, another glimmer of hope. But although this does apply Chile has refused to honor the treaty it signed. Not just in my case but in all cases, so much for Chilean honorability and a just place in the nations of the world.
Chile that requires both parents to sign before a Chilean child can leave the country. A country zealously guarding against abduction is obviously hypocritical and not concerned about other countries parent's rights because of this case and many others where they have failed to react. In fact they have not honored this treaty in one case on three years. Chile also signed the UNICEF agreement about children's rights, again a country that wants to look good to the world but does not want to honor its pledges.
Not being able to help my son in Chile and on the advice of lawyers both in the U.S. and Chile I returned to the U.S. Here I was told there could be justice and again that turned out to be a mirage. Because I was blackmailed with Georgie as a hostage, blackmailed to going to Chile and living in the apartment with my wife some legal opinions are that Chile has jurisdiction, the same country that couldn't even help me get any visitation! Back in the United States, despite all I have been led to believe, despite what she has done, there appears to be little hope for Georgie. After spending over $18,000 here and $6,000 in Chile in legal fees there still there is no end in sight I still cannot see my son let alone have him with me The specifics of this are documented facts and it is puzzling because in spite of them and the obvious fraud they clearly expose, Georgie is severed from his father and lost in a third world country.
How can a U.S. judge not have jurisdiction? Georgie was born in the U.S. to two U.S. Citizens legally married in the U.S. He was undoubtedly abducted, there are too many witnesses, too much evidence for there to be doubt. In Chile he has no rights he is illegitimate because of her falsely registering him and must bear the stigma of that throughout his life there. She has stolen money here both from me and from Georgie by taking his college fund and from the other children too Sal Landa has two children, my step children, he hasn't seen for over two years. A U.S. Court, as is customary here awarded joint custody to him and Gabriela. Later without advising him of the hearing a Chilean Judge, her friend, overruled the U.S. Court and awarded Gabriela full custody. She has lied in almost every document she has signed, she has falsely denied a legal marriage exists, she has taken property and money both in the U.S. and Chile.
The story isn't ended and may never be. I cannot stop trying to give my son a good life I cannot stop trying to be a good father. Not until justice of some reasonable sort is obtained. Should kidnapping be rewarded? Should fraud be rewarded? Apparently for now both are and the children and fathers continue to suffer. As for my case the minors Georgie, Nicolas and Gabriella need to be returned to the United States where they were born and have spent most of their lives. Then custody, visitation and the children's welfare could be decided by a Judge who can be aware of all the facts without bias. In the larger view how can this kind of crime be stopped? So other parents, fathers and mothers alike, do not have to go through something like this. Simple, minors under 12 years cannot leave the U.S. without the written approval of both parents just as Chile does just as most countries do.
The above was written in 1995 what has happened since? Today is July 24, 1997. The U.S. Court failed to do anything so I moved back to Chile to see Georgie. I went to a judge here and got some visitation, terrible by U.S. standards but I do see him. The Hague convention has proved worthless, Chile has refused to honor it although they have signed it. Our State Department seems powerless. So if you do international business get cash or product first. They sign papers they do not honor. I did register Georgie legally in Chile so he is not a bastard anymore. I must pay her support to see him or go to jail, the support for him is OK but she is legally married to me and now is pregnant with another child by another person. I am told no property can be regained by me, Chile supports her fraud. As a last point I found out she had been married 5 times in the U.S. and lied on the marriage license with me, that seems unimportant here. Contact George Massie at fax 56-42-219195, email at [email protected], address is Pasaje Estadio 895 , Chillan, Chile, phone 56 42 219195.
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