By Tom Brown
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A New York man who headed a group billing itself as a non-profit dedicated to preventing child abduction and trafficking was arrested on Tuesday on charges of defrauding the parents of children nabbed by international kidnapping rings, authorities said.
Peter Senese, 49, founding director of the I Care Foundation, was arrested by the FBI in Brooklyn and has been charged with wire fraud.
A criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan said Senese told parents whose children were victims of international abductions that he could locate them and return them to the United States. He promoted his group through the websites www.stopchildabduction.org and www.petersenese.com and falsely claimed that his organization had former members of the U.S. Army's elite Delta Force at its disposal.
Senese solicited money to cover alleged operational expenses from parents who reached out to him for help recovering their children, according to the complaint.
The complaint detailed one case in which Senese collected roughly $60,000 from a family whose child was held by kidnappers in India. The child was never recovered, prosecutors said.
A representative for Senese, who was due to make an appearance in federal court later on Monday, could not be reached for immediate comment. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison, prosecutors said.
They said Senese lied repeatedly, making false claims about an affiliation with the U.S. military that he never had and claiming to be working overseas while he was really in New York, Miami or Los Angeles.
No child Senese promised to recover had ever been rescued, they said.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement that Senese "fed a pack of lies to desperate parents," convincing them to fund "non-existent" rescue missions for their missing children while taking the money for his personal profit.
(Reporting By Tom Brown; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Ted Botha)