Cab driver, girlfriend arraigned in baby hoax

March 2, 2008 1:49:41 PM PST
A livery cab driver and his girlfriend face charges that could earn them each a year in jail following the abandonment of the woman's six-month-old niece, officials said on Sunday. Klever Sailema, the driver who was initially hailed as a Good Samaritan after he told police an unknown man left the child in his car, was arraigned in Queens Criminal court late Saturday on charges of falsely reporting an incident and criminal facilitation, said Kevin Ryan, spokesman for Queens District Attorney Richard Brown. The 44-year-old's girlfriend, 21-year-old Maria Siavichay, was arraigned on a charge of criminal facilitation.

Criminal Court Judge William Harrington released Sailema and Siavichay without bail and ordered them to appear in court April 7.

They each face up to a year in jail if convicted, Ryan said.

The 14-year-old mother of the child probably would not be charged due to her age, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. The father, said to be 27, and identified by police only as Siavichay's brother, remained the subject of a police search.

Sailema's lawyer, Kevin Faga, said the driver had "acted responsibly for the welfare of the child." Faga did not immediately return a message seeking comment on behalf of Siavichay.

Sailema was briefly the toast of the city after he delivered the baby girl to a firehouse in Queens on Thursday, telling authorities an unidentified man had left her in his cab and disappeared. A day later, under questioning by detectives, Sailema admitted he knew the 14-year-old mother's family in the Bronx and had participated in the plan.

A state "safe haven" law allows parents unable to care for newborns to leave them anonymously at hospitals, police stations or firehouses without risking prosecution, but it applies only to children up to five days old.

Police didn't provide all details of the case but Stuart Caban, a friend of the family, told reporters he had brought the 14-year-old mother to police late Friday after he found her sobbing over picture of the infant in a newspaper.

"She was depressed, scared, crying. She loved her daughter. She wanted to be with her," said Caban, a 23-year-old bail bondsman.

Police said Sailema became involved because he was dating Maria Siavichay. Investigators believe she persuaded him to take part.

Another person, Siavichay's 24-year-old roommate, was released with no charges after questioning by police, Ryan said.

The Administration for Children's Services put the baby in a foster home.

Baby Lourdes, as the little girl was dubbed, was placed with a family in Queens, according to Jennifer Gilbert, spokeswoman for The New York Foundling, a child welfare agency.