ELK GROVE, CA - A woman accused of abducting her own children and fleeing to the Middle East made her first court appearance on Tuesday in Sacramento County.
The investigation started more than a year ago after Stacey Mabrey's estranged husband made a report with Elk Grove police that his children were abducted, Officer Chris Trim said.
The estranged husband, Sameh Hussein, is named in court documents and identified by Mabrey's attorney Tom Johnson.
Mabrey and her four children (three of which are Hussein's biological children) left the United States two years ago and traveled to Qatar, according to Johnson.
"She was sent to Qatar by her husband (Hussein)," Johnson said. "He sent her household goods, money, car, everything and then he divorced her and then he decided to tell the court that she was refusing to bring home the children."
Johnson said Mabrey was in Qatar with her husband's family the entire time.
"She went to (Hussein's) mother's house and that's the most unbelievable thing," Johnson said. "She was staying with his mother."
During that time, Johnson said Mabrey's estranged husband could not travel to Qatar because he was on a "no travel list"; it's still unclear why.
According to Trim, Hussein made his initial report with Elk Grove police in January 2011; three months later, Hussein was awarded legal custody of his three children.
According to a family court document that was signed and dated on March 28, 2011, Hussein petitioned for custody of his children. The document reads Hussein made a telephone call on March 28, 2011 at 10 p.m. and told Bazanesh, the children's nanny, he would bring the request to family court on March 30, 2011 at 9:15 a.m.
Johnson said Mabrey was in Qatar when the telephone call was made and was given less than 24 hours to appear in Sacramento County family court. Qatar is 11 hours ahead of Pacific time.
When Mabrey didn't show for the court appearance, that's when Hussein was granted full custody of their children, Johnson said.
"He was awarded custody because he told the judge she was refusing to bring the children home; that wasn't true," Johnson said.
In May, Elk Grove police requested an arrest warrant for Mabrey and a judge issued the warrant in September, according to Trim. Elk Grove police then began coordinating with the FBI in October to get the children back to the United States; in January the agencies worked together to return the children.
Mabrey and her children returned to California on Monday night. According to a source familiar with the investigation, an FBI agent traveled with Mabrey and her children from the Middle East to the United States.
Mabrey was then served an arrest warrant by Elk Grove police, Trim said.
"She came back here voluntarily being told she would not be arrested and the minute she hit Sacramento she was arrested and her children taken from her," Johnson said.
Three of Mabrey's children were given to Hussein and her fourth child was placed in a receiving home, according to Johnson. The 10-year-old fourth child was from a different relationship.
Sameh Hussein could not be reached on Tuesday.
According to federal documents, Hussein filed a federal lawsuit in November 2011 for a review of denial of an application for naturalization.
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