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Florida man sentenced for kidnapping his daughters and fleeing abroad amid custody battle


Miami, Florida – Hamilton Alexander Merilus, also known as Salahudin Sabah Alexander Amhadulla-Merilus, 43, was sentenced to 16 months in federal prison for kidnapping his two young daughters and taking them to Morocco and Turkey. This international incident, which began with a deceitful act in 2019, concluded with the children’s reunion with their mother in October 2023.

A Divorce That Turned Criminal

The ordeal began in August 2019 when Merilus’s wife requested a divorce. Taking advantage of her temporary absence in the Dominican Republic, Merilus fraudulently obtained full custody of their two daughters, then aged two and four, by falsely claiming to a Broward County Circuit Court judge that their mother had abandoned the family.

Merilus’s deceit did not stop with the court. While the mother was still abroad, he sent her an audio message, stating that she would never see her children again and that he would make them “disappear.” True to his word, when she returned to the United States, the mother was unable to find either Merilus or their daughters.

Upon discovering Merilus’s actions, she fought back legally, obtaining joint and eventually full custody of the children. Unfortunately, Merilus disregarded these court orders.

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Reunification and Justice

In November 2022, Merilus left the United States with his daughters, flying first to Morocco. His attempt to evade authorities continued even after Moroccan officials conducted a wellness check in July 2023, prompting him to flee further to Antalya, Turkey.

During his time abroad, Merilus left the children unattended in Morocco and Turkey on multiple occasions while he traveled back to the United States, each time providing misleading information about their whereabouts. In one occasion he claimed the children were with their mother, while on another occasion he said that they were with his mother in Jacksonville, Florida.

The international case came to an end when Merilus was arrested in Arizona on August 9, 2023. The long and painful separation ended on October 5, 2023, when the children, now aged nine and seven, were finally reunited with their mother in Turkey.

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The case was closely followed by the FBI, with coordination from their Legal Attaché Offices in Ankara and Rabat. U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey B. Veltri of the FBI, Miami Field Office, provided details on the legal proceedings. The sentencing was carried out by U.S. District Judge Raag Singhal.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alexandra D. Comolli and Stephanie Hauser were responsible for prosecuting this challenging case, which spanned several countries and involved complex aspects of international law and parental rights.

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