Bonnie Sweeten gives up right to hearing

The Bonnie Sweeten case
June 22, 2009 11:05:20 AM PDT
The Bucks County mother, accused of faking her own abduction - and fleeing to Florida with her daughter, was in court this morning. Bonnie Sweeten waived her right to a preliminary hearing in Richboro, Bucks County on Monday morning. Officials now will work on preparing for a trial.

She had paid ten percent of her bail and was released from prison late last month. Officials at the Bucks County Correctional Facility in suburban Philadelphia say Sweeten, 38, was released after posting 10 percent of her bail, $100,000 in cash.

Her defense attorney had argued since she was charged with two misdemeanors, filing a false police report and identity theft, her bail should be low and reasonable and Sweeten was not going anywhere.

However, Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry argued to the judge that her actions proved that Sweeten definitely is a flight risk.

"I think the facts of this case have established that, obviously after she committed the crimes that she's been charged with, she then fled to Florida, I argued in front of the judge. In addition that, she had withdrawn a substantial amount of money and it was her intention to use that money to fund her getaway. Therefore, it was our position that she would be a flight risk if she was released on bail," Henry said.

Henry also said that additional charges regarding the money are under investigation.

The judge in addition to setting the bail to $1-million, which Sweeten has to pay 10-percent of, has said she can only have supervised visits with her 3 children. There must be another adult in the room during the visits.

As stated above, Bonnie Sweeten is accused of filing false reports that she and her daughter were kidnapped, and then taking her daughter for a trip to Disney World while using another woman's ID to get there.

Sweeten gave up her right to fight extradition back to Pennsylvania from Florida during a court appearance Friday. Sweeten's plane arrived at Philadelphia International Airport at around 9:00 p.m. Friday night.

VIDEO: Bonnie Sweeten's extradition hearing.

Sweeten's 9-year-old daughter, Julia Rakoczy, is safe and sound. Julia's father, Anthony, who is Sweeten's ex-husband, was reunited with his daughter in Orlando on Thursday afternoon at the Orange County Sheriff's Office in Florida.

In the meantime, we are learning more details about Bonnie Sweeten and why she may have fled.

Sweeten was a paralegal and officer manager for a firm that used to have offices in her home town of Feasterville, Pa. She handled paperwork for various lawsuits.

Lydia Demetro said she was told by Sweeten in March that she would be getting a $50,000 settlement for a personal injury lawsuit handled by attorney Debbie Carlitz.

Demetro claims she hit a brick wall with Sweeten while trying to collect her money.

"She kept on telling me 'We haven't heard anything, we don't know what's going on," Demetro said.

Demetro says she found out what was going on when she spoke to a friend in law enforcement on Wednesday, just as Sweeten's elaborate kidnapping hoax unravelled.

"I was told she was cashing the checks by the bank, forging them, and depositing them," Demetro said. She also told Action News that Sweeten told her she had numerous financial worries.

Investigators are looking into the possibility that Sweeten stole between $600,000 to $1 million from the law firm and charity headed by Bucks County attorney Debbie Carlitz.

Police visited the head of the Carlitz Foundation in New Hope, Pennsylvania on Wednesday. It bills itself as a charity raising money for children in Burma. But, it is not registered as a charitable non-profit with the state.

Lawyer Debbie Carlitz would not talk to Action News except to say she has been talking to police. She also would not say why Sweeten is a former employee.

Action News spoke to Larry Sweeten, Bonnie Sweeten's husband. He says his wife has not contacted him, and he has not been able to get ahold of her.

He says he is puzzled the reports that his wife stole as much as a million dollars.

"We live an average life. If she was stealing money, as they're saying, I have no idea where it's going," Larry Sweeten said. "We're living, we're making our payments. Nothing extravagant."

Larry Sweeten confirms his wife has had eight miscarriages over the last several years and has undergone hormone treatments for that. Investigators are looking to see if any of that alleged stolen money went to pay for those treatments.

The couple now has an 8-month-old daughter.

"I know when you do in vitro you take hormone shots, and that messes with her extremely. She was emotional. When she had the baby, she was extremely attached to the baby," Larry Sweeten said.

"I think she got herself in over her head a little bit and she kind of lost it a little bit," ex-husband Anthony Rakoczy said on "Good Morning America" on Thursday. "I've known this woman a long time and she's always been very together."

Sweeten and Julia Rakoczy were captured by surveillance cameras at Philadelphia International Airport Tuesday afternoon.

They boarded a flight around 4:15 bound for Orlando. Authorities say Sweeten had lied to a former coworker to get her driver's license and used it as an alias to buy airline tickets and to get through security.

RELATED: Kidnap hoax raises airport security questions.

Sweeten was arrested in Orlando at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort Wednesday evening. Investigators say she had withdrawn about $12,000 from several bank accounts in recent days. Authorities are now investigating whether that money was stolen.

Action News caught up with Sweeten's current husband, Larry Sweeten, on Wednesday. He told us, "She handles all the finances. I know nothing about the money. I use my debit card, I don't do any car payments, mortgage, nothing - she handles everything.

According to investigators Sweeten and her daughter traveled with very little luggage, if any. The hotel room was paid for through the week.

Sweeten faces extradition and misdemeanor charges of false reports and identity theft.

RELATED: Photos of Bonnie Sweeten and Julia Rakoczy

This whole ordeal began around 1:50 p.m. Tuesday when Sweeten called 911 to say she had been forced into the trunk of a black Cadillac at the intersection of Street Road and Central Avenue in Upper Southampton Township, Bucks County. She went on to tell the operator that she had been in an accident and that two black men in the other car then abducted her along with her young daughter.

Police found Sweeten's abandoned SUV early Wednesday morning at 15th and Chestnut Streets in Center City Philadelphia.

Cracks in her story started to appear after it was revealed that the Sweeten's GMC Yukon Denali had a parking ticket on it with a time stamp of 2:20 p.m. Tuesday. That 30 minute window from when she told police she was abducted and when the ticket was issued would be an incredibly tight timeframe to get from the suburban Bucks County town to the heart of Philadelphia.

Furthermore, police say they traced Sweeten's first 911 call to a cell phone tower near the location where the SUV was found, indicating it may have been there the entire time.

Additionally, investigators say Sweeten gave conflicting stories about where her daughter was; whether she was with her in the trunk of the Cadillac or taken along with her SUV.

There were also questions as to why no one saw the alleged crash and abduction, since Sweeten said it happened at a very busy intersection.

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The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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