An Arcadia woman and her 2-year-old son were reunited at Heathrow Airport in London on Friday, six weeks after her estranged husband had taken the boy to Iraq and demanded that she join him, according to the woman's family.
Working with the FBI and Scotland Yard, Michelle Al-Nasseri duped her estranged husband, Haitham Khalid Al-Nasseri, 33, into meeting her in London, said Michelle's mother, Liz Pollinger. Agents arrested Al-Nasseri and returned 2-year-old Laith Adam Al-Nasseri to his mother.
"We're really, really thrilled to death," said Liz Pollinger, 50, of Temple City. "The worst part about it was being so frightened we'd never see him again."
Michelle Al-Nasseri, a paralegal, had filed for divorce May 23 and was awarded custody of the child, Pollinger said. The couple had been married 1 1/2 years but had been together for five years. They grew apart as Al-Nasseri insisted that Michelle and the child go to Iraq, where he grew up, Pollinger said.
The drama began July 21, when Al-Nasseri took the child on what he said was to be a three-day camping trip. When he did not return, Michelle Al-Nasseri went to his condominium and found bank receipts showing he had withdrawn large amounts of money, travel agency paperwork, and receipts indicating that he had bought seeds, which are in demand in Iraq because of the food shortage, Pollinger said.
Michelle Al-Nasseri contacted Arcadia police, who notified the FBI. Meanwhile, her sister saw a TV show that featured a story on Corporate Training Unlimited, a group of former Green Berets based in North Carolina.
When Michelle Al-Nasseri contacted her husband in Iraq, he told her she would never see her son again unless she came to Iraq, Pollinger said.
The ex-Green Berets helped Michelle concoct the ruse to meet her husband in London for a meeting.
"I'm not sure if he was naive or just self-confident to think that he could come into the country not realizing that the FBI would have a hand in this and rescue the child," FBI Supervisory Special Agent Stephen Steinhauser told the Pasadena Star-News.
Al-Nasseri is scheduled in court Monday for an extradition hearing, Pollinger said, and Michelle and the baby are expected to return to the United States on Tuesday.