Bucks County, Pennsylvania mother Bonnie Sweeten, age 38, called 911 repeatedly on May 26, 2009, to report that she and her 9-year-old from a previous marriage, Julia Rakoczy, had been abducted after their SUV was rear-ended and carjacked and the assailants grabbed and pushed them into the trunk of a dark Cadillac. She described the attackers as two black men.
These calls triggered a frantic police search for the missing mother and child. But it wasn’t long before police found the SUV undamaged with a parking ticket on it and realized that the 911 triangulation of the cell phone call indicated she was about 20 miles away from the place where she claims the rear-ending and abduction took place. Doubts began to grow. Adding to the inconsistent details was a complete lack of any witnesses of the carjacking at a busy Philadelphia intersection. As it turns out, the doubts were warranted.
Faked Kidnapping Enabled by Fraud
It turns out that Sweeten faked her own kidnapping after conning a former coworker, Jillian Jenkinson, out of her identification to use to fraudulently obtain airplane tickets to fly to Florida to take her daughter to Disney World. Jenkinson claims that Sweeten said she needed her driver’s license to roll over Jenkinson’s 401(k) plan. Instead, Sweeten allegedly used Jenkinson’s ID to steal her entire 401(k) balance.
Sweeten had also drained $12,000 from other bank accounts in recent days. There are allegations she may have embezzled hundreds of thousands of dollars from accounts connected with her employer, attorney Debbie Carlitz, and a related charity called New Hope. She allegedly even committed check fraud against her own parents.
Distracted Daughter’s School
In order to divert attention from her disappearance plans, Bonnie Sweeten made up excuses involving Julia being sick. Susan Harder, an administrative assistant with the Bensalem Township School District, stated that Sweeten withdrew Julia from school on May 1. The school had been notified of a doctor’s appointment for Julia on May 26. The doctor’s office confirmed such an appointment had been made, but indicates that the patient and her mother never showed up.
Arrest in Orlando Hotel
Police caught up with Sweeten on May 27, arresting her in a Orlando hotel room and taking custody of Julia. Apparently police arrested her and took her away in front of her daughter, showing a remarkable insensitivity for the emotional impact this would have on the young girl. This lead to Julia crying outburst when her father arrived, worried about her mother. Police should separate a child and parent to protect the child from emotional trauma caused by a parent being led away in handcuffs, a situation they don’t need to see. But as usual, the emotional well-being of children is not a major concern of police.
Sweeten Being Compared to Susan Smith and Her Alleged BPD
Sweeten’s false accusations against fictional black carjackers evokes memories of Susan Smith , the mother who in 1994 killed her two sons ages 3 years and 14 months and then blamed their deaths on a black man carjacking her and driving the kids into a lake.
Like Susan Smith , the news media is speculating that Bonnie Sweeten may have Borderline Personality Disorder . Experts suggest when she gets an attorney, the attorney will immediately seek a psychological evaluation and may advise her to plead insanity for her crimes. So far, she is being charged with filing false police reports and identity theft. It is possible that charges of theft and parental abduction may be added at a later time.
Family Problems May Have Contributed to Sweeten’s Hoax
Bonnie Sweeten has two other children. Julia’s older sister Paige and she share a father, Anthony Rakoczy, who is Sweeten’s ex-husband. She has an 8 month old baby named Faith from her current marriage with her husband Richard L. Sweeten who is a landscaper. There is speculation that she might be suffering from post-partum depression or other mental illnesses related to her recent pregnancy. There are also reports of marital difficulties.
As to why Bonnie only took one child, reportedly she told police that she needed one of her girls with her to help her avoid committing suicide:
(from Kidnapping a hoax )
Investigators said that Sweeten told them she took Julia with her, because she had urges to commit suicide but knew that her bond with her middle child would keep her from acting on that urge.
Suicide is on of the top reasons for death of those suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, but is also related to depression and other mental illnesses.
Alleged Big-Money Embezzlement, Fraud, and Theft
The mother was also apparently being investigated for hundreds of thousands of dollars in embezzlement or theft, including money from her parents by check fraud and from her employer, attorney Debbie Carlitz, and a related charity called New Hope.
(from Kidnapping a hoax )
She took off, police said, because she allegedly stole between $300,000 and $700,000 while working at an Upper Makefield law firm and directing an associated charity. She wanted to return the money before it became a criminal case, according to law enforcement officials. No charges have been filed in connection with the alleged theft.
Neighbors have said the Sweetens are a nice couple and that they run a landscaping business. Bonnie Sweeten does the landscaping business’s finances and works for Debbie Carlitz, a personal injury attorney from Upper Makefield, according to police. The state Supreme Court suspended Carlitz from practicing law in Pennsylvania last year, but that ended in March, according to records available on the court’s Web site.
Carlitz declined to comment Wednesday on Sweeten’s disappearance, stating that she’s “terribly upset by the situation.”
Sweeten is also a director at a New Hope charity run by Carlitz, which reportedly raises money for autism research. District Attorney Michelle Henry declined to comment on reports of theft from the charity or law firm.
Police said Sweeten was trying to pay off a debt involving either the law firm or the charity before police got involved in a possible theft investigation. They said she got a check from her parents that she doctored to read $285,000 to pay back the law firm in an attempt to avoid prosecution, law enforcement officials said.
Father Rushes to Help Daughter
Daughter Julia’s father, Anthony Rakoczy, flew to Florida to collect her from police and return her home. He is saying that he believes Sweeten may have “lost it a little bit” but is committed to ensuring that whatever has gone wrong with her that he will ensure that their daughter continues to have her mother in her life.
(from ‘Kidnapped’ Mom Found at Disney World )
Her ex-husband and the 9-year-old girl’s father, Anthony Rakoczy, said Thursday on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he thinks she got in over her head and “lost it a little bit.”
“I’ve known this woman for a long time,” he said. “She’s always been very together, tons of friends. Everybody loves her.”
He said he thinks she needs help, and he will make sure her kids will be involved in her life no matter what.
It’s admirable that Julia’s father wants to keep her mother in her life. Although this should be a de facto desire for responsible parents in most divorces, it is unfortunately all to common that parents will resort to alienation and abduction to keep children from seeing the hated ex. Unfortunately, despite Anthony Rakoczy’s responsible wishes, Bonnie Sweeten may have dashed any real hope of her being a part of her daughters’ lives if she ends up in prison on a variety of criminal charges.
Possible Security Flaws and Law Violations by Government Employees
TSA Security Concerns
Sweeten’s ability to get onto a plane using false ID after buying one-way tickets with cash raises obvious security concerns. If it’s so easy to use cash and false ID to get on an airplane, it appears that airline security in the wake of 9/11 really hasn’t been upgraded as far as the public has been misled to believe by government officials.
Confidentiality and Privacy Law Concerns
Statements of school officials and medical staff have reportedly revealed information that may be protected by privacy laws covering school and medical records. If this information was released by school district and medical office staff to reporters, such disclosures may be violations of law. If it was released to police and the police improperly disclosed it, that may be a violation of law, also.
Neither is likely to be prosecuted, however, as these are relatively minor violations compared to those commonplace in which police, FBI, and other government agents break the law and leak confidential information to reporters and others. Sadly, even though Bonnie Sweeten appears to be mentally ill based upon her actions and media speculation, even in her craziness she and her family may be yet more victims of the corrupt and illegal nature of law enforcement agencies in the United States.