TAMPA, Fla. - It was the happy ending everyone was hoping for. Rachelle Smith reunited with her son Dexter in June after the FBI said he was kidnapped by his father, Ali Salamey, and taken to Lebanon.
It was a nasty custody battle that turned criminal after Salamey refused to bring Dexter back to the United States, officials said.
For months, an anxious mother did what she could,
"I'm here to beg for any and all help to get my little boy returned," Smith said during a press conference.
Salamey was accused of taunting Smith with videos of Dexter appearing happy far away from home.
Because the United States does not have an extradition treaty with Lebanon, the odds of getting Dexter back were not good. But Smith did not give up.
The mother went to Washington and met with U.S. Senators and Lebanese officials. Earlier in 2019, the Lebanese government arrested Salamey and sent Dexter back to the U.S.
"I went 281 days without speaking to him, without seeing him, without knowing he was okay. I was grieving every single day for a child that was still alive, but I had no contact with,” explained Smith.
Now, Salamey’s criminal prosecution begins in federal and state court.
In a Hillsborough County courtroom on Thursday, Salamey's attorney, Victor Martinez, explained how Salamey was back facing new legal troubles.
"He took fugitive status and fled the United States. He's since been apprehended and is in custody. Again the federal government has initiated the prosecution against him," said Martinez.
Salamey faces international parental kidnapping charges. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.