A woman and her boyfriend were arrested and charged with taking her three-year-old daughter in a case where further investigation revealed the girl’s father lied about her abduction.
Tania Fortin-Duarte, 18, and her boyfriend Kevin Smith Olmedo-Velis, 19, were arrested on warrants obtained by Apopka police for interference with child custody and booked into the Leon County jail.
The other two subjects in the black Honda Accord, in which they took Madeline Mejia of Apopka, were released and taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Only hours after Madeline was taken on the morning of Monday, February 10, she was found safe and left with local authorities in Tallahassee.
Later that day, Madeline was reunited with her father Lester Mejia, who was named as a witness in the investigation.
After father and daughter reunited, detectives resumed interviewing Mejia and discovered he “was not completely forthcoming” when reporting his daughter’s abduction to authorities, according to a Tuesday, February 11, news release from the Apopka Police Department.
Mejia told authorities a relative contacted him while he was at work and informed him Duarte had taken Madeline. Mejia called 911 on his way from his job back to Apopka, but an unknown dispatch center allegedly told him no crime has been committed if the mother has the child.
Afraid he’d never see his daughter again, Mejia contacted Apopka police with the abduction story in hopes of getting her back, according to the press release.
Although Mejia was not forthcoming with the information he gave to Apopka police, he has lawful custody of his daughter and Duarte unlawfully removed Madeline from his custody, police said.
A false report filed
At a February 10 press conference outside the Mejia family’s East Orange Street home, police said Mejia reported his daughter was abducted when he left her outside the residence to retrieve his forgotten keys inside.
While inside the house, Mejia said he heard his daughter scream, so went back out and saw an unknown Hispanic male putting Madeline in a black Honda with a Texas temporary tag, according to police.
The father pursued the Honda in his car up to I-75, where he lost chase and decided to contact law enforcement – about a two-hour time delay from the time Madeline was taken until he reported the incident to police.
Apopka police contacted local law enforcement agencies, Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued an AMBER Alert, and even the FBI got involved. Eventually authorities stopped the Honda on I-10 in Tallahassee, apprehended the four individuals and recovered the unharmed girl.
Duarte is not in Madeline’s life.
“She doesn’t live locally; she doesn’t live in the state,” said Apopka Sergeant Kim Walsh.
Police is continuing the investigation.