A Pennsylvania mother found at Walt Disney World after claiming she and her 9-year-old daughter were abducted by two men and stuffed into a car trunk waived her right to extradition Friday and will now head home to face charges.
Bonnie Sweeten, 38, appeared in an Orlando, Fla., courtroom Friday for a hearing that lasted less than a minute. Detectives from Bucks County, Pa., were in Orlando to bring her back, and a judge told Sweeten she would be returned soon.
The ruse began to unravel shortly after Sweeten phoned 911 on Tuesday afternoon and told them she and her 9-year-old daughter had been carjacked and stuffed in the trunk of a dark Cadillac in Upper Southampton Township.
The call touched off a frantic search for the pair that ended 30 hours later when police handcuffed Sweeten as she and the child returned to their hotel at the amusement park Wednesday night.
Police say she drained several bank accounts and took a co-worker's driver's license before boarding a flight to Orlando. Sweeten has been charged with filing a false report and identity theft.
The missing girl, Julia Rakoczy, was reunited with her father at an Orlando police station on Thursday afternoon, authorities said. She flew back to Philadelphia with her father, and police escorted them off the plane.
"The daughter was very concerned for her mother," said Jim Solomons, a spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Office. "To see any one of your parents arrested and taken to jail and then you're put in protective custody ... that's a terrible situation for anyone, much less a kid."
Sweeten fled as she was being investigated for theft from a relative and perhaps others, authorities said. No charges had been filed in that probe.
She worked for 15 years for Debbie Carlitz, a lawyer in suburban Philadelphia whose law license has been inactive or suspended in recent years, according to state documents. Sweeten is listed as a director at a foundation Carlitz runs, The Carlitz Foundation, which according to its Web site raises money for autism research and for people in Burma.
The charity is not registered in Pennsylvania or listed in Guidestar, a national database of IRS-recognized charities.
Carlitz, reached by phone Thursday morning, said she was not sure whether any money was missing from her coffers.
"I can't (tell you) right now," she said. "I need to gather the information myself."
The Bucks County Courier Times, citing police, said the embezzlement may total several hundred thousand dollars. Bucks County District Attorney Michelle Henry did not return messages for comment Thursday.
Sweeten lived with her husband, landscaper Richard L. "Larry" Sweeten, in a $425,000 house in a new development in bucolic Bucks County. She also has a 15-year-old daughter by ex-husband Anthony Rakoczy, who lives nearby, and an 8-month-old girl with Sweeten.
Larry Sweeten told Philadelphia television station WPVI-TV on Thursday that he has not spoken to his wife since her arrest.
"They said I wouldn't be able to talk to her until she gets back to Pennsylvania," he said.
In an appearance on the Today show, Sweeten said he was struggling to sort out the rumors of theft and marriage problems surrounding her disappearance.
"I want to know more than anybody," he said.
Sweeten added that following a seemingly festive family Memorial Day Weekend, he finds it hard to believe the two have extremely serious domestic problems, though "we argue, like everybody else does."
He said his wife handled family finances, and after reports of investigations into her past financial dealings, "Hopefully this week I'll be looking into my bank accounts."
According to the police complaint, Bonnie Sweeten withdrew more than $12,000 from several bank accounts in the past week.
She then went to the home of former co-worker Jillian Jenkinson on Tuesday afternoon and said she needed to make a copy of her driver's license to roll over her 401(k) retirement account, the papers said. Sweeten then took her friend's license to the airport, where she paid cash to book a flight in Jenkinson's name.
She also booked the motel room under that name and paid for it through Friday, the FBI said.
Police staked out the Disney complex after learning of the alleged identity switch and confirming through airport security video that mother and daughter had boarded the Orlando flight. Concerned about the girl's safety, they waited at the hotel for them to return Wednesday night.
"We didn't know this woman's state of mind," said agent J.J. Klaver, the FBI spokesman in Philadelphia.
Henry, without giving specifics, suggested Sweeten was suffering from domestic and financial concerns.
"I think if you look at the evidence, it appears she was very calculated in this plan," Henry told FOX News. "This didn't happen in a second. It was very well thought out."
Anthony Rakoczy thinks his ex-wife got in over her head and "lost it a little bit."
"I've known this woman for a long time," he said Thursday on ABC's "Good Morning America." "She's always been very together, tons of friends. Everybody loves her."
Detectives and reporters had been puzzled by holes in Sweeten's story, and FBI spokesman J.J. Klaver confirmed earlier Wednesday the existence of "inconsistencies" in her account of the accident and abduction. But he declined at the time to elaborate and said those aren't the focus of the investigation.
Sweeten had told emergency dispatchers that she and her daughter were snatched in the middle of the day Tuesday by two men who rear-ended her SUV in suburban Philadelphia, according to police.
When investigators arrived at the scene, they found no evidence of the crash and the FBI and local police found no witnesses who saw the accident that the missing mother described.
And although Sweeten said the accident took place in Upper Southampton Township, a suburb of Philadelphia, Klaver said authorities discovered her 2005 GMC Denali SUV on Wednesday in Center City, 40 minutes away, along with a parking ticket that indicates it was there about 20 minutes after she dialed 911.
The 911 calls were traced to downtown Philadelphia, about 20 miles from the site of the reported fender-bender and abduction. One was picked up by a cell tower only two blocks from where Sweeten's car was found.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.