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Federal jury convicts Heron man of kidnapping son, fleeing to Costa Rica

| March 16, 2023 2:00 PM

MISSOULA — A federal jury on Wednesday convicted a Heron man of kidnapping his son in violation of a parenting plan and taking him to Costa Rica, U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich said.

A jury found Jacob Israel Strong, aka Jacob Israel Guill, 37, guilty of international parental kidnapping. The two-day trial began on March 14. Strong faces a maximum of three years in prison, a $250,000 fine and one year of supervised release.

U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen presided. Sentencing was set for July 27. Strong was detained pending further proceedings.

“Maintaining the safety of Montanans, especially children, is a top priority for our office, which is why I am pleased with the jury’s verdict. This case shows the extensive efforts we will make to bring kidnappers to justice, including working with law enforcement across international borders. I am grateful to First Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Racicot and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian C. Lowney, along with the FBI, for investigating and prosecuting this case,” U.S. Attorney Laslovich said.

The government alleged in court documents and at trial that in January 2020, Strong and his ex-wife entered into a parenting plan for their then two-year-old son as part of a divorce proceeding. Prior to a court date in August 2021, Strong failed to return their son to his mother as scheduled. The mother was unable to locate Strong and ultimately contacted the Sanders County Sheriff’s Office.

Law enforcement also was unable to contact Strong. The Sanders County Attorney’s Office subsequently charged Strong with felony parental interference and a state arrest warrant was issued for Strong. Still, law enforcement was unable to find him.

The government further alleged that in September 2021, the FBI opened an investigation to assist Sanders County in the search for Strong and his son. In January 2022, the FBI discovered Strong and the child were living in Costa Rica, and learned that Strong and his son left the United States in approximately October 2021, near Midland, Texas.

Strong paid a man to transport them to Costa Rica, and Strong and the child lived with the man for about six weeks.

In May 2022, the FBI received specific information about Strong’s whereabouts, and Costa Rica officials arrested and deported him back to the United States. The child’s mother traveled to Costa Rica to take custody of her son and returned with him to the United States.

Assistant U.S. Attorneys Timothy J. Racicot and Brian C. Lowney are prosecuting the case, which was investigated by the FBI.