Pompeo addresses Wichita international parental abduction case
The Russian Embassy is demanding the release of a Russian citizen who has been found guilty in U.S. federal court of international parental kidnapping of two Kansas girls.
Bogdana Alexandrovna Osipova, 38, was found guilty last month of taking her children to Russia even though their Wichita father, Brian Mobley, had joint custody. Osipova, who has dual Russian and U.S. citizenship, is referred to by her married name of Mobley in court documents.
Their children Sophia, 6, and Isabella, 4, are thought to still be in Russia and are listed on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“We demand that the #US authorities stop their lawless behaviour and release the Russian citizen Bogdana Osipova, thus returning the mother to her children,” the Russian Embassy said in a tweet Friday.
Russian Ambassador Anatoly Antonov previously rejected a plea from Rep. Ron Estes, R-Kansas, that the girls be reunited with their father, a U.S. Air Force recruiter in Wichita. Antonov told Estes that the Russian citizen has been a victim of “discrimination and psychological pressure” in the federal criminal case and pointed to a Russian court ruling that found the children should remain in Russia.
“We’ve attempted to work with Russian authorities to find a diplomatic solution to this situation on behalf of a constituent, but clearly Russia is not interested in adhering to court rulings or acting in good faith,” Estes said Friday in response to the Russian demand to release Osipova. “I once again call on Russia to reunite this father with his children and will work with the State Department in solving this case.”
Osipova was pregnant with their second child when Brian Mobley filed for divorce in Sedgwick County District Court in March 2014. His petition called for joint legal custody, but Osipova fled to Russia a month later and took their children with her.
During the divorce, Mobley was awarded sole custody of the children by the district court. But Osipova got her own divorce through Russian courts.
The ex-husband flew to Europe to meet his ex-wife and children on the border of Poland and Russia, federal prosecutors previously said. But she refused to let him see the children and demanded money.
The daughters were able to talk with their father through Skype, but that ended when Mobley refused to pay for his ex-wife’s internet service in Russia, according to court documents. Federal prosecutors said she demanded he give her money if he wanted to talk to his children.
Osipova was later charged with federal crimes and arrested by the FBI when she returned to the U.S. to try to change the child support arrangements.
Her defense attorneys said in federal court documents in August 2018 that they would cooperate with the U.S. government on returning her daughters to Kansas, expecting that to help her be released from jail before her trial. At the time, her attorneys expected the children to be back within the month.
After Osipova was found guilty in March, U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said the children had not yet been returned.
In addition to international parental kidnapping, Osipova was also found guilty of two counts of extortionate interstate communications. A jury found she was not guilty of two other counts of extortion.
What American courts interpreted as extortion, Russian courts called alimony, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said in a briefing.
“Osipova is facing a mind-blowing sentence of 43 years in prison,” Zakharova said in the ministry’s translation of the briefing. “Her claim to her ex-husband for alimony, which was supported by a Russian court, was qualified there as extortion.”
Sentencing for Osipova is scheduled for May 20. She faces up to three years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on the kidnapping conviction. Each extortion charge carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison and fines up to $250,000.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the children are living with relatives in Kaliningrad. The embassy’s statement refers to Osipova as a hostage who is being blackmailed into returning her children to the U.S. in exchange for her freedom. Her children are being deprived of their mother as their father provides no financial assistance, the Russians say.
“It must be understood that we do not seek to destroy Ms. Osipova’s life, nor does Mr. Mobley,” Estes previously said. “Mr. Mobley has repeatedly stated that he wants Ms. Osipova to remain in Sophia and Isabella’s life. Mr. Mobley is prepared to ask the court for leniency during sentencing of Ms. Osipova if the children are returned.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo previously told McClatchy that he could not discuss the specific details of the case.
“We’re always concerned when we have issues of that nature,” Pompeo said.
“But suffice it to say the State Department does its best to make sure parental rights are treated fairly. And when we’ve got issues surrounding abductions when U.S. citizens have been taking wrongly the State Department is always fully engaged to make sure we get those folks to the right place.”