February 25th, 2008 04:37 EST
ICE, Mexican authorities reunite kidnapped baby girl with Mexican mother
LAS VEGAS - A woman from Juarez, Mexico, whose 7-month-old daughter was kidnapped from their home three months ago, was reunited with her child here earlier today, capping an intensive effort by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Procuraduria General de la Republica (the Mexican Attorney General's Office, commonly known as the PGR) to locate the infant and return her.
The mother, Francisca Garcia-Favila, was paroled into the United States and escorted to Las Vegas by ICE agents and representatives from the PGR. This morning marked the first time Garcia-Favila had seen her daughter, Alexandra, since the child was kidnapped shortly before Thanksgiving and brought into the United States by members of a Juarez-based human smuggling ring. Representatives from the local Mexican consulate attended today's reunion and are providing assistance to the mother.
"Seeing this child reunited with her mother was deeply gratifying for everyone involved," said Kevin Kozak, deputy special agent in charge of the ICE office that oversees the agency's investigative efforts in Las Vegas. "There were moments when we weren't sure the case would have a happy ending, but law enforcement agencies on both sides of the border persevered and this reunion is a direct result of our extraordinary cooperative efforts."
The child was allegedly abducted by Rosario Hernandez, a Mexican national living in Las Vegas, who was a distant acquaintance of the victim. After snatching the child, authorities say Hernandez sought assistance from a human smuggling organization to help her and the infant illegally cross the border. After the pair arrived in the United States, Hernandez and the infant became separated. Hernandez was arrested and detained after being intercepted at a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Border Patrol checkpoint in New Mexico. Meanwhile, the smuggling organization brought the infant to Las Vegas and turned her over to Hernandez's former boyfriend, Gamaniel Villapando-Triste. According to investigators, Hernandez had told Villapando-Triste he was the child's father, a claim Villapando-Triste believed because Hernandez was pregnant when the two separated. Villapando-Triste did not know Hernandez had subsequently suffered a miscarriage.
As Garcia-Favila waited for word about her daughter, investigators on both sides of the border worked around-the-clock following up on leads. Within days, agents with ICE and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) received a tip the infant might be in the custody of Child Protective Services (CPS) in Las Vegas. Working with CPS, federal investigators determined that Villapando-Triste had surrendered the infant to the agency, using an alias for himself and the child.
But the saga was not over. Villapando-Triste still insisted he and Hernandez were the child's parents. The case then moved to Clark County Family Court. The Court, following a series of hearings and DNA tests, determined Garcia-Favila was the child's biological mother, paving the way for this week's reunion.
As for the others involved in the case, Hernandez was deported to Mexico last month, where she is expected to be formally charged with kidnapping. Villapando-Triste, a prior deportee with an extensive criminal history, was taken into custody by ICE last month on felony immigration violations. He pleaded not guilty and remains in custody awaiting trial, which is set for April 7.
Editor's Note: An ICE digital photo of today's reunion is available on ICE's website at www.ice.gov or by calling ICE public affairs at (949) 360-3096.