US couple held after taking kidnapped sons to Cuba

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MIAMI—A US couple who had fled to Cuba after snatching their two young sons from the care of their grandmother are behind bars in Tampa, Florida, local law enforcement said Wednesday.

A US airplane carrying Joshua Hakken, his wife Sharyn Patricia and their sons, aged two and four, landed in Tampa from Cuba early Wednesday, local media reported.

Hakken was attempting to flee US authorities when he took his wife and boys to Cuba aboard his sailboat on Monday.

Joshua Hakken was booked in the Hillsborough County, Florida jail and faces charges that include child neglect, kidnapping, burglary, and grand theft auto, while Sharyn Hakken will face charges of kidnapping, interference with child custody and child neglect, according the website of the sheriff’s office.

TV footage showed the couple arriving in the United States in handcuffs.

Aboard the plane were local, state and federal agents who flew to Cuba to bring the family home, the Tampa Tribune newspaper reported.

The Tampa area sheriff, David Gee, said the couple also faces federal charges of fleeing to avoid prosecution.

The children and the family dog, which went along to Cuba, will return to the home of the maternal grandmother, the sheriff told local media.

Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement Tuesday it had informed the US Interests Section in Havana — which functions as an embassy in the absence of full diplomatic ties — that it would deliver the Hakkens to US authorities.

Officials in Florida had been searching for Joshua Hakken since April 3 when he allegedly broke into his mother-in-law’s house near Tampa, tied her up and fled with his young boys.

The Hillsborough County sheriff’s office said that Hakken lost custody of the children after being arrested in Louisiana on drug charges in June 2012, following what police described as “an anti-government rally.”

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