BUFFALO, N.Y. – U.S. Attorney Trini E. Ross announced on Feb. 16 that Khaled Abughanem, 50, and Waleed Abughanem, 32, both of Lackawanna, NY, were arrested and charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to kidnap persons in a foreign country. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles M. Kruly and Maeve E. Huggins, who are handling the case, stated that according to the criminal complaint, in December 2022, the FBI began investigating the travel of an adult American citizen (the victim), who investigators believe was tricked into traveling from the Buffalo area to Yemen in an attempt to force her into an arranged marriage. The complaint states that defendant Khaled Abughanem, the victim’s father, and her brother, Waleed Abughanem, discussed killing her if she did not abide by their wishes.
Subsequent investigation determined that in September 2021, without her family’s knowledge, the victim traveled to Mexico. After learning where she was, her family traveled to Mexico and physically forced her, involuntarily, to return to the United States. According to the victim, her father stated, “she would be traveling outside the United States whether she liked it or not, or he would bury her in the backyard.” The victim attempted to flee her residence only to find that all doors had been locked. She was also forced to withdraw as a student from the University at Buffalo, lost all access to the Internet and social media and was under constant threat of harm. The victim was told if she did not comply and agree to an arranged marriage, she would be locked up in her home without contact with the outside world forever and her fiancé, whom her family disapproved of, would be killed.
On September 17, 2021, the victim’s fiancé called the Lackawanna Police Department, stating he had not been able to contact the victim for more than a week. Lackawanna Police responded to the Abughanem residence and advised the family to contact the victim’s fiancé. Subsequently, the Abughanem family, with the victim, left Lackawanna and traveled to Sanaa, Yemen, where the victim is currently being held by family. According to the victim, her father stated that “you are no longer in the West, you are in the Middle East, women like you are killed.” The victim stated that her father proposed a marriage for which he would be paid $500,000, but she refused and as a result was physically assaulted. The victim’s fiancé continued to call the Lackawanna Police, who responded to the Abughanem residence, but were told the victim is fine and to stop making welfare checks. In April 2022, some members of the family left Yemen and returned to the United States, leaving the victim in Yemen, under the supervision of two of her brothers.
The defendants made an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder, Jr. and were held pending a detention hearing on February 17.
The complaint is the result of an investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent-in-Charge Darren Cox, and Customs and Border Protection, under the direction of Director of Field Operations Rose Brophy. Additional assistance was provided by CPB in Boston and the U.S. Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service.
The fact that a defendant has been charged with a crime is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
— Source: www.justice.gov. Edited for style.