Six months after the custody agreement was finalized, Dahm pleaded no contest to organized fraud for his role in the condo scam, a felony charge that carries a maximum sentence of 30 years. When sentencing came around, the legal gods smiled favorably on him; he was ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution and sentenced to just ten months of community control followed by five years' probation, according to court documents. The judge also ordered Dahm to not engage in any activity that requires a telemarketer license.

Two months later, Delbecq fled with her daughter.


On a warm Wednesday in August 2010, Dahm paced up and down the sidewalk in front of his Pompano home frantically checking his watch. The knots in his stomach cinched tighter with each minute that passed. At 5:30 p.m., half an hour after Delbecq should have dropped off Gabrielle, he called his lawyer. At 7 p.m. he called the Broward Sheriff's Office. Then he started calling nearby jails, hospitals, morgues, and airlines.

From left to right: Leslie Delbecq; her mother, Jeanine De Riddere; and her father, Philippe Delbecq. All three are wanted by the FBI on charges of international parental kidnapping.
Courtesy of FBI
From left to right: Leslie Delbecq; her mother, Jeanine De Riddere; and her father, Philippe Delbecq. All three are wanted by the FBI on charges of international parental kidnapping.
Christopher Dahm has kept the room of his daughter, Gabrielle, just as it was when she  was kidnapped by her mother almost two years ago.
Chris Sweeney
Christopher Dahm has kept the room of his daughter, Gabrielle, just as it was when she was kidnapped by her mother almost two years ago.

"I didn't sleep all night Wednesday," he says. "Thursday morning at 7 a.m. I called the FBI... I was starting to get the feeling they left, but I didn't know how."

Dahm says that based on his own investigation and information relayed to him by the FBI, Delbecq made two trips to the Belgian consulate in Atlanta before she fled the country. The first was to obtain Belgian citizenship for Gabrielle without Dahm's consent; the second was to obtain a physical passport. Then, on a Monday in August 2010 — two days before she was to exchange her daughter with Dahm under the joint-custody agreement — Delbecq, her baby, and her mom flew directly to Belgium. They stayed there for two days, then caught a connecting flight to the United Arab Emirates.

According to the FBI, all three tickets were purchased by an Etihad Airways employee, Philippe Delbecq. Dahm says that Philippe, his ex-father-in-law, was often in charge of flights between Brussels and Abu Dhabi and might have been at the controls of the plane that took his kidnapped granddaughter into the UAE.

International parental kidnappings are far more common than most of us realize. In 2010, there were 1,022 such cases that originated in the U.S., or roughly 20 a week, according to data from the State Department. In 2011, there were 941. More than a quarter of the cases each year involved a parent fleeing to Mexico.

Experts have developed six personality profiles of parents who are likely to flee with their kids against court orders. Profile one includes "parents who have threatened to abduct or abducted previously." Profile four consists of "parents who are severely sociopathic."

Delbecq would seem to be an amalgam of profile five, which includes dual citizens in a failed marriage, and profile six, which includes parents who feel alienated by the legal system and have support from their family. She has both U.S. and Belgian citizenship, her marriage to Dahm didn't last half a year, and her parents provided ample moral and financial support.

The State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs has an entire division dedicated to international abductions. It coordinates with the FBI, which often gets called in after a grand jury indicts the abducting parent and federal warrants are issued. How swiftly things move after a fugitive parent is found — or if they move at all — hinges on whether the country is a signatory of a treaty known as the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction.

"Because of the complexity with family abductions, they do take longer to resolve," says Maureen Heads of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. "With international abductions, it largely depends on the country and the circumstances... When you're looking at countries that are non-Hague and don't have treaties, it becomes a real challenge. People ask me all the time what the return rate is, but it solely depends on the country."

Japan has never returned an abducted U.S. child as a result of civil litigation or law enforcement proceedings. Brazil has likewise refused to cooperate with U.S. authorities; the prolonged case of Sean Goldman captivated a worldwide audience in 2009 after his wife fled with their son and died shortly thereafter. Muslim countries governed by sharia law pose a unique set of circumstances. According to Heads, Morocco is the only such country that's attempted to become a member of the Hague convention.

The United Arab Emirates has no extradition agreement with the United States. Still, there was one case of the UAE's returning an abducted child to the rightful parent. But resolving the case cost the family four years, seven trips from a lawyer, and $250,000 in legal fees.

Ken Farnsworth, an assistant state attorney in Broward County who works on extraditions, says countries such as the UAE might decide to extradite on a case-by-case basis while taking into account cultural factors that are disregarded under U.S. rule of law. "Some countries make you lay out the whole case: the likelihood of conviction, how much time this person would be looking at," he says. "If it's the mother, some countries might say she has a right to her child and they wouldn't consider the abduction a crime... There are unwritten laws in some countries. Maybe one parent has more sway."

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3 comments
rana7071
rana7071

orlando roof leak repair

I actually knew about most of this, but having said that, I still thought it was useful. Nice job! Can I make a suggestion? I think you've got something good here. But what if you added a couple links to a page that backs up what you're saying? Or maybe you could give us something to look at, something that would connect what you're saying to something tangible? Just a suggestion. 

Think
Think

What an oddessy.  If you can't get along, the lawyers win, law enforcement and the courts dictate your unhappiness...  Everybody is happy excpet you.

ChrisSweeney
ChrisSweeney

Chris Dahm's lawyer has sent an email to the New Times raising concerns about some points made in this article. Below readers can find his letter, as well our response to the points made. 

 

Dear Mr Sweeney:Some corrections to your article:Leslie and Chris got married at Saint Pius X Catholic Church in Fort Lauderdale, NOT the St. Regis. The reception afterward was at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale.Chris  NEVER gave Leslie a gun to use for any reason. The ONLY loaded gun in the house was in their nightstand, in their bedroom. Chris NEVER said that anyone was looking for him, because they were NOT. Chris  was always very easy to find.In 1995, Chris NEVER went berserk or tore off an arm rest. Chris claims that he NEVER claimed that ANYONE’S condos were sold; he contends  that people who worked for him made those claims to the public, not him. Chris maintains he  NEVER stashed loaded guns around the house, NOR did he ever rip ANYONE off. ALL of the other guns were locked up, and NOT loaded. He further claims that he  NEVER stole ANYTHING from ANYONE. There was never a “lock down” situation at his residence.It should be noted that Leslie had the full opporuntiy to raise her concerns at the trial, which she did, and they were considered by the court in its decision. Please correct your article accordingly. Thank you for your consideration.

 

*Chris  NEVER gave Leslie a gun to use for any reason

We never wrote that Chris gave Leslie a gun. We have her quoted saying that he put one in her drawer. It’s a direct quote. This point is discussed in court documents filed during the divorce by Delbecq. And Chris told me that Leslie discharged the gun when trying to take it out of the drawer on one occasion.

 

*Chris NEVER said that anyone was looking for him, because they were NOT. Chris  was always very easy to find.

This is from a direct quote that Leslie made. Furthermore, the court documents include Delbecq discussing that someone came to their house looking for him. Saying that Chris was always easy to find is subjective.

 

*In 1995, Chris NEVER went berserk or tore off an arm rest

The arrest report that we viewed from 1995 describes how Chris was placed in hand cuffs and put in the back of the squad car. While in the back, he managed to get the cuffs in front of him and “pulled the armrest off.” In the story, this assertion is qualified with “police records show.” He was removed from the car and hit with pepper spray, according to the report. He was charged with ‘resist/obstruction w/o violence,” among other things.

 

*Chris claims that he NEVER claimed that ANYONE’S condos were sold; he contends  that people who worked for him made those claims to the public, not him. 

Chris pleaded no contest to felony fraud charges for his role in the timeshare scheme. The description of the scam in court records includes detailed description of how the scam worked, including that people were told their condos had been sold.

 

*Chris maintains he  NEVER stashed loaded guns around the house

Chris told me that his ex-wife discharged a loaded gun that he had put in the dresser drawer. Furthermore, a court document filed by Leslie states: “Additionally my husband had loaded firearms which he kept in the bedroom where we slept with my infant daughter.”

 

*NOR did he ever rip ANYONE off

Allegations that Dahm ripped people off are in direct quotes from Leslie and they appear in documents filed by Delbecq during the divorce proceedings.

 

*ALL of the other guns were locked up, and NOT loaded

Delbecq claims otherwise. And there is discussion in the second deposition about how the guns were later removed from Dahm’s house and then locked up at his grandfather’s home. Delbecq claimed that Chris had another loaded pistol at his disposal, which he once answered the door holding.

 

*He further claims that he  NEVER stole ANYTHING from ANYONE.

Delbecq claims that he did steal money from co-workers. And, again, Chris’ pleaded no contest to felony fraud charges.

 

*There was never a “lock down” situation at his residence.

In a court document filed by Leslie, she wrote: “my daughter and I, for the brief time we resided with Christopher Dahm, literally were in a lockdown situation with limited transportation.”

 

*It should be noted that Leslie had the full opporuntiy to raise her concerns at the trial, which she did, and they were considered by the court in its decision.

This is abundantly clear in the article.

 

*Leslie and Chris got married at Saint Pius X Catholic Church in Fort Lauderdale, NOT the St. Regis. The reception afterward was at the Hyatt Pier 66 in Fort Lauderdale.

Leslie told us twice that the reception was at the St. Regis. However, we will run a correction nothing this point. 

 

 
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