BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A father and son were arrested and charged with a kidnapping conspiracy revolving around an alleged forced arranged marriage, the U.S. Attorney announced Thursday.
Khaled Abughanem, 50, and Waleed Abughanem, 32, both of Lackawanna, were charged by criminal complaint with conspiracy to kidnap persons in a foreign country. The charge carries a maximum penalty of life in prison.
According to the criminal complaint, in December 2022, the FBI investigated the travel of a woman victim, an adult American citizen, who investigators say was tricked into traveling from the Buffalo area to Yemen in an attempt to force her into an arranged marriage.
According to the complaint, Khaled, the victim’s father, and her brother, Waleed, allegedly discussed killing her if she did not abide by their wishes.
Authorities say an investigation determined that in September 2021, the victim traveled to Mexico without her family’s knowledge. Upon learning her location, the victim’s family traveled to Mexico and allegedly physically forced her, involuntarily, to return to the United States.
According to the woman, her father allegedly stated that “she would be traveling outside the United States whether she liked it or not, or he would bury her in the backyard.”
Authorities say the victim allegedly attempted to flee her residence but discovered that all the doors had been locked, and she was forced to withdraw from the University at Buffalo, lost all access to the internet and social media, and was under constant threat of harm.
The victim was allegedly told if she did not comply and agree to the arranged marriage, she would be locked up in her home without contact with the outside world forever. Her fiancé, who her family disapproved of, would also allegedly be killed.
On Sept. 17, 2021, officials say the victim’s fiancé contacted the Lackawanna Police Department stating he had not been able to contact the victim in over a week.
Lackawanna police say they responded to the Abughanem residence and advised the family to contact the victim’s fiancé.
Following the report, the Abughanem family, with the victim, traveled to Sanaa, Yemen where the victim is currently being held by family.
According to the victim, her father allegedly stated “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 when she refused the marriage she was allegedly physically assaulted.
As the victim’s fiancé continued to call the Lackawanna police, authorities say they responded to the Abughanem residence but were told the victim was fine and to stop making welfare checks. In April 2022, members of the family left Yemen and returned to the U.S., allegedly leaving the victim in Yemen, under the supervision of two of her brothers.
Khaled and Waleed are being held pending a detention hearing on Feb. 17.
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