September 4, 2012
Karina Garcia, Part III: Reintegration to America
As soon as Karina stepped off the plane, her father knew something was very wrong. She could no longer speak any English and her father said she was very untrusting and confused.
- By Sarah Worthman
- August 30, 2012
Editor’s Note: This is the third part in an exclusive, three-part series in which Fox Point’s Dr. Moises Garcia talks about his 4-year fight to successfully recover his kidnapped daughter, Karina, from Japan. This series chronicles the abduction, Moises’ battle to maintain a relationship with her from more than 6,000 miles away, and takes a look at her today, age 10, as she celebrates her first birthday back in America since the abduction.
As many 10-year-old girls begin to crush on boys, have slumber parties and enter the “tween” years, Karina Garcia is trying to decide the truth behind why she was kidnapped at age 5 and who in her family really does love her.
Karina was kidnapped by her mother, Emiko Inoue, in 2008 and taken from her Fox Point home to Inoue’s native Japan on the day that her father, Dr. Moises Garcia, was having divorce papers served.
Garcia fought for a year to win sole custody of the child through American courts. But it would be months before he would see his daughter again, and nearly three years before she would set foot on American soil.
In December 2011, Inoue returned alone to the United States to renew her green card in Hawaii.
However, Garcia’s attorney, Jim Sakar, was prepared. He had known she would have to come back to the United States so he sought an arrest warrant for custody interference. Inoue was immediately arrested and extradited to Wisconsin when she landed in Hawaii.
Inoue sat in jail for nearly eight months before she finally agreed to have Karina sent back to the U.S. At that time, she had just been charged with a second offense for custody interference. Both are felony charges and she now faces up to 12 1/2 years in prison if she doesn’t comply with U.S. court orders. She wears a GPS monitoring device and is petitioning to have it removed.
“This is not your normal, run-of-the-mill, custody battle,” Sakar said. “This is a foreign national who has abducted, with an improperly-issued passport, a child that we were lucky as hell to get back. The stars just aligned. And if she re-abducts her, we’ll never see her again. I guarantee you (we won’t) because there’s 320 American kids there right now. It’s frustrating.”
Inoue’s U.S. attorney, Gerald Boyle, did not return a phone message left on Tuesday requesting comment.
Reintegrating to American life
Karina celebrated her 10th birthday Monday surrounded by 15 of her friends near her Fox Point home. But amid her smiles is a struggle to adapt to a whole new life. She had completely forgotten the English she’d learned before the abduction, Garcia said, and isn’t quite sure who to trust.
“There are days when she gets sad, when she starts thinking about how much damage was done by people that she loves (like) her grandparents,” Garcia said. “Like how some of the toys that I gave to her in the only visit allowed in March 2009 where lost or hidden.”
And while Karina still has nightmares about being re-abducted, she does want to continue a relationship with her Japanese family and friends, Garcia said. She Skypes and sends letters to Japan and gets bi-weekly packages from her grandparents that usually have Japanese comics, candies and Japanese toys inside he said.
“She talks about Japan all the time and I encourage this as it is part of her heritage,” Gracia said. “We have a game that when we want to tell a secret, we speak in Japanese so nobody understands.”
And while it’s a daily struggle to regain her trust, Garcia said she’s nearly back to normal, calling him “Papa” again.
“I knew that deep inside there was this little, afraid girl that was missing her dad,” Garcia said. “I love her deeply.”
August 29, 2012
Karina Garcia, Part II: Fight to Be a Father
In a four-year battle to bring his daughter Karina back home to Fox Point, Dr. Moises Garcia not only learned to speak fluent Japanese, but he spent more than $350,000 on more than three dozen trips to Japan to try and see her.
Editor’s Note: This is the second in an exclusive, three-part series in which Fox Point’s Dr. Moises Garcia talks about his 4-year fight to successfully recover his kidnapped daughter, Karina, from Japan. This series chronicles the abduction, Moises’ battle to maintain a relationship with her from more than 6,000 miles away, and takes a look at her today, age 10, as she celebrates her first birthday back in America since the abduction.
After learning that his daughter Karina had been abducted and taken to Japan by her mother, Emiko Inoue, in February 2008, Dr. Moises Garcia departed from Fox Point for his native Nicaragua to cope with the loss of his daughter and recharge.
He returned with a focus on the basics — to maintain a relationship with his daughter over the miles while navigating the legal challenges involved in bringing her back home.
Garcia studied many other cases and discovered that the most important aspect of child abduction cases like his was to establish jurisdiction. So he continued divorce proceedings in the United States. Inoue had left the United States on the day she was to be served with divorce papers and Japan does not have process servers. Instead, Garcia said, he had to publish a small summons in a Japanese newspaper for $7,000.
That established U.S. jurisdiction for the divorce, but didn’t dissolve the distance between himself and his five-year-old daughter. Garcia spent a year learning to speak Japanese; took phone calls from Karina at all hours, owing to the 14-hour time difference with Japan; and even engaged in Skype video chats with the little girl to maintain a connection with her that would prove to be key in her return to the U.S.
“The first few Skypes, she was a little bit weird, but then she was normal again,” Garcia said. “We were able to keep the relationship in that way, not ideally, but at least something.”
During Garcia’s research of other cases, he even discovered a case where a man was denied custody because he couldn’t cook Japanese food.
“The year I was learning Japanese, I also went to a Chicago supermarket and I bought Japanese food and I got a book and I studied everyday,” Garcia said.
His first trip to see Karina was in March 2009, more than a year after she left. Garcia was expecting a full week with Karina, based on a visitation schedule worked out with a Guardian ad Litem two months prior. Instead, he said, Emiko permitted him only two hours.
Garcia said that was the only time he saw his daughter during 13 trips to Japan over the next 12 months. On one trip, in February 2010, he visited Karina’s school even though, he said, Emiko kept the girl home. So instead he met with the girl’s teacher, who shared pictures of Karina and other students in class.
“I took pictures at her desk, it was kind of sad but I felt close,” Garcia said. “Every time I went to Japan I was happy because I was close to her.
Emiko’s U.S. attorney, Gerald Boyle, did not return a phone message left on Tuesday.
“Being so close and so far at the same time, it’s amazing,” he said. “You get so happy just to walk on the streets, see her classroom, talk to the people that are close to her and they can tell you stories about her. It’s all indirect, one day hoping she’s going to grow and come back and see you.”
A custody battle moved overseas
The day they would be reuinted drew a closer in the midst of these visits, in July 2009, when courts in the United States granted sole custody of Karina to her father. The victory had no immediate impact, however, as Inoue had filed her own divorce documents in Japan in March of that year.
“I won the fight here, but now the fight moves to Japan,” Garcia said.
Wheels began turning in Japan March 2010, when Garcia was granted a “trial visitation.” Garcia said he, Inoue and Karina were in one room with two-way glass and multiple police officers. During the 15 minute-assessment, the court was looking to determine if it is in the child’s best interest to have access to her father.
“(It’s) kind of stupid – you haven’t seen the kid for a year at least and they want to assess how much attachment the kid has to you,” Garcia said. “Many kids get scared and cry and they say the kid is not attached so we’re not going to give custody. But Karina did the opposite.”
Garcia believed the calls, Skype chats and postcards he exchanged with Karina assured a warm reunion when they finally saw each other. He earned a second trial visitation in August, for Karina’s birthday. He continued monthly visits to Japan, but never actually saw her on those trips. Over two years, he spent more than $350,000 for less than three total hours with Karina.
Did Garcia ever think about simply stealing Karina back?
“You only think about that like a dream, but you have to think about the implication you’ll have,” he said. “As a person, I wouldn’t feel right and I think it would be more traumatic on Karina. I always tried to do the right thing in terms of – she’s always telling them I’m a bad person. If I do that, she will confirm that so, it’s better to do the right thing no matter what because abduction is bad for the kid no matter what. Even bringing Karina now is a big trauma.”
February 2011 was the last time Garcia saw Karina in Japan. He didn’t tell anyone his plan. It was a normal school day and he simply walked into her school.
“We go there and we surprised Karina,” Garcia said with a laugh. “It was 10 minutes. I thought this was the last time I was ever going to see Karina to be honest.”
And that would be last time he would see Karina — in Japan.
Tomorrow: A look at what it took to arrest Inoue and force her to return Karina to the United States. And finally, how Karina is adapting to her life back in Fox Point.
August 29, 2012
Karina Garcia, Part I: The Abduction
In 2008, Fox Point’s Dr. Moises Garcia came home to find the family safe empty, clothes thrown everywhere and both his daughter and soon-to-be ex-wife missing. The girl was just 5 years old when she was taken to Japan.
Editor’s Note: This is the first in an exclusive, three-part series in which Fox Point’s Dr. Moises Garcia talks about his 4-year fight to successfully recover his kidnapped daughter, Karina, from Japan. This series chronicles the abduction, Moises’ battle to maintain a relationship with her from more than 6,000 miles away, and takes a look at her today, age 10, as she celebrates her first birthday back in America since the abduction.
On a warm August afternoon, Karina Garcia celebrated her 10th birthday surrounded by 15 of her friends at a lake near her Fox Point home. But this birthday was much more than a celebration with cupcakes, balloons and toys. Monday marked a new milestone for Karina after a four-year nightmare for her and her father, who’s never told the full, step-by-step story of his battle to bring his daughter home.
Karina’s father, Dr. Moises Garcia, said she wanted a bike for her birthday and that was one wish he couldn’t grant.
“I can’t, it’s dangerous,” he said.
Even after Karina has spent eight months in the United States with her step-mother and new baby sister, her father said she often endures nightmares that she will be abducted again.
“She had nightmares that an old lady kidnaps and takes her, grabs her,” Garcia said. “She’s scared that she’s going to be taken again, not see her sister.”
On Feb. 22, 2008, Garcia went to pick up Karina from the home where she stayed with her mother, Emiko Inoue, Garcia’s soon-to-be ex-wife.
But when he got there, no one was home. Instead, he found clothes scattered across the house, the family safe emptied of $3,000 cash and Inoue’s passport missing.
Garcia’s worst nightmare had become reality — his daughter had been kidnapped.
This began Garcia’s four-year crusade, which would cost him nearly $400,000, to bring his daughter home.
‘I was always afraid of that’
Garcia, originally from Nicaragua, and Inoue, a native of Japan, met while studying in Norway in 1998. They moved to Milwaukee in 2001 and married a year later with Karina on the way.
Garcia said his filing for divorce was fueled by personality problems between Inoue and himself that were exacerbated after Karina was born. Cultural differences and Inoue’s struggle to adapt to living in the United States were also a big part of their frustrations.
He said he finally filed for divorce after they had a massive argument in February 2008.
“By then we had tried everything,” he said, including counseling, a reconciliation from a previous divorce filed by Inoue in 2006, and moving into a new house. But even after all of that, they ultimately separated and Garcia filed for divorce. He said the troubled relationship with Inoue left him concerned for his daughter’s safety.
“I had Karina’s passport in my possession because I was always afraid of that. I was always concerned about abduction,” Garcia said.
The next step
After discovering the scene at the home in 2008, Garcia immediately called Fox Point police. It was later discovered that Karina and Inoue had left Mitchell International Airport at 7 p.m. Sunday for Minnesota for a connecting flight to Japan.
“Initially I didn’t believe she was in Japan. I thought maybe she’s hiding here,” he said.
That night, Garcia received a very short phone call from Inoue letting Garcia know that they were both safe in Japan. Because the caller ID showed up as “Unknown,” Garcia said he had hope they were still in the United States.
“There was a week where I was looking at hotels, everywhere, pushing police to see what happened, getting court orders, all this stuff,” he said. By Saturday, he remembered he had the home phone number of Inoue’s parents in Japan, where he believed she would have taken Karina. He called multiple times and at first, no one answered. Finally, Inoue picked up, confirming the international flight.
“Then, that day, I hit bottom,” he said. “I cried like crazy, three or four hours. There was nothing to do at that point. I almost gave up.”
Garcia returned to Nicaragua to “rebuild” himself during that time. And after nearly a month refocusing, and coping with the loss of his daughter, he found the drive to develop a new plan.
“After that, I came out fresh with more ideas,” he said. He would read every article he could find on parental abductions to foreign countries, talk to support groups and government officials and he said he then realized that his problem was far from rare.
A father left behind
Emiko Inoue was arrested in 2011 when she visited Hawaii, and was brought to Wisconsin to face two felony charges: interference with custody beyond visitation and interference with child custody — other parent. If she is convicted on both counts, she faces up to 12 1/2 years in prison. She wears a GPS tracking device that she is trying to have removed.
Though Karina is home, Garcia continues devoting time and energy to the issue of these abductions.
“We are helping other cases, one in New York (taken to Japan), another in New Jersey (taken to South Korea) trying to write strong court orders to prevent this from happening to these children. This is a big problem facilitated by the fact that the U.S. is the only developed country without exit controls,” Garcia said.
Exit controls are a system to check the exit and entry of foreign nationals as they cross U.S. borders. In Karina’s case, custody had not yet been established and the couple was still married. However, without exit controls, no one checked to make sure Karina was leaving the United States legally.
But exit controls are only one part of the abduction picture. In 1994, the United States signed theHague Adoption Convention, an international agreement among 72 countries that requires children be returned to the parent with legal, custodial rights if another tries to take them away. Japan has not signed the convention, according to the U.S. Embassy, despite pressure to do so.
Tomorrow: A look at Garcia’s fight to be a father to Karina while she was more than 6,000 miles away, and the lengths he had to go to continue being a part of her life.
American father wins custody of child after divorce from Japanese woman
A Nicaraguan-born man who lives in the U.S. state of Wisconsin has been awarded custody of his 9-year-old daughter, ending a four-year court battle with his former Japanese wife.
Moises Garcia married Emiko Inoue in 2002 and settled in Wisconsin where their daughter Karina was born the same year.
However, Emiko took the girl with her to Japan in 2008 against her husband’s wishes. Garcia fought passionately—and spent about $350,000—to get his daughter back. The liver transplant doctor learned to speak Japanese so he could communicate with a daughter whose English was slipping away.
He hired lawyers in Japan and flew across the Pacific nine times to press his case and try to see his daughter. He enlisted the help of the U.S. State Department and his native Nicaragua. He became active in an advocacy group—Global Future—run by U.S. parents whose children were taken to Japan.
Garcia won a major victory in 2009 when the Japanese courts—which did not recognize the U.S. court that granted Garcia full custody—determined he should have visitation rights. And he kept fighting when his ex-wife appealed and the case dragged on for years.
In all that time, he only saw his daughter three times. The longest visit was for just under two hours at a hotel restaurant. Another visit lasted 10 short minutes at a school open house.
The Osaka High Court, in handing down its ruling, said that Karina had become used to life in the United States with her father and that forcibly returning her to Japan now would be bad for her.
Karina is the first U.S. child abducted by a Japanese parent who was returned to the United States with the aid of the court system.
Her case remains an anomaly, however, because Karina likely never would have been returned if her mother hadn’t flown to Hawaii in April 2011 and been arrested on child abduction charges.
Inoue spent months in a Wisconsin jail until she reached a plea deal with prosecutors: her parents would send Karina home to Garcia and Inoue would be given probation instead of a lengthy prison sentence.
Until laws change in Japan—and family courts gain the power to enforce custody rights—it will be nearly impossible for other parents to be reunited with their children, Garcia said.
“When my ex-wife was arrested, we finally got the enforcement that was missing from the Japanese courts,” he said at a press conference in a Milwaukee hotel. “If my ex-wife had never been arrested, Karina’s alienation would have been completed.”
December 8, 2011
This seems to be the most comprehensive article that has come out on this case so far. According to the article, the mother faces 25 years imprisonment if the daughter is not brought back to the U.S.
November 22, 2011
According to the following release from the Associated Press, the abducted daughter of Dr. Moises Garcia is expected to be returned from Japan to her father in Wisconsin. This came about as a consequence of the mother being detained by law enforcement after a visit to Hawaii. This seems to be the first successful case in which an abducting Japanese parent has been apprehended by U.S. law enforcement and agreed to return an abducted child to the U.S. parent.
November 22, 2011 (MILWAUKEE) — A Wisconsin father has won an international custody case that could bring his 9-year-old daughter home from Japan by Christmas.
The girl’s mother, Emiko Inoue, pleaded no contest to interfering with child custody in Milwaukee County Circuit Court Monday and agreed to return Karina Garcia to Wisconsin.
Japan isn’t part of an international compact on child abduction. So the girl’s return would be a landmark case for children abducted to Japan and returned with legal intervention.
The mother fled to her native Japan with the girl in February 2008, shortly after her husband, Moises Garcia, filed for divorce. The Journal Sentinel reports the girl was born in Wisconsin and is currently living with her maternal grandparents in Japan.