A man who was snatched by American bounty hunters and taken to the U.S. remains in legal limbo as the men who grabbed him pleaded guilty to smuggling. Kenneth Weckwerth, 60, remained in U.S. custody yesterday as bail bondsmen Reginald Bailey, 61, and Robert Carden Roberts, 43, each pleaded guilty to charges of illegally smuggling an alien into the U.S.
Bailey and Roberts face up to one year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000. They will be sentenced on Feb. 22. U.S. charges of making false statements were withdrawn but both men could still face criminal charges in Canada.
Bailey, Roberts and Weckwerth were arrested in the early hours of Nov. 15 after they lied to U.S. customs agents as they attempted to return to the U.S. at the Rainbow Bridge border crossing in Niagara Falls.
FACING DRUG CHARGES
According to an agreed statement of facts, border guards were told all three men were U.S. citizens who were returning home after two days of gambling at Casino Niagara. But Weckwerth, who is facing drug trafficking charges in Ohio and allegedly skipped out on a $10,000 US bond, is a Canadian citizen who had twice been deported from the U.S.
According to a U.S. Department of Justice statement, Bailey and Roberts had convinced Weckwerth it was in his best interest to return to the U.S. after initially abducting him from his girlfriend's house in Golden Lake on Nov. 14.
Yesterday, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs said they are trying to secure Weckwerth's release.
"We have requested that Mr. Weckwerth be returned to Canada," said Foreign Affairs spokesman Rodney Moore, adding Canadian consular officials met with Weckwerth on Monday and he "seemed well."
But on Monday, U.S. officials indicated Weckwerth would be turned over to New York state authorities, who would then turn him over to Ohio to face the outstanding drug charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York Marty Littlefield said yesterday Weckwerth would be released to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
"The governments of Canada and the United States are presently in conversation as to the exact status of Mr. Weckwerth in the United States," said a statement released by the U.S. Department of Justice yesterday.
Canada and the U.S. signed a memorandum of understanding in 1988 to prevent cross-border kidnappings and assure that no Canadian can be taken from Canada to a U.S. jurisdiction.
The memorandum was the result of the 1981 abduction of Toronto man Sidney Jaffe, who was wanted in Florida on land fraud charges. He was convicted but eventually released and returned to Canada following protests from the Canadian government. Bounty hunter Daniel Kear was extradited to Canada and convicted of kidnapping.