- An Amber Alert and a state-wide search were launched on Monday after Lester Mejia, of Apopka, Florida, had said his 3-year-old daughter Madeline had been abducted from his driveway.
- Madeline was found with her mother in Tallahassee, hours after the Amber Alert was issued.
- Police said that Mejia, who has full custody of his daughter, knew Madeline was with her mother, and that he called police because he "was scared he would not see his daughter again."
- Police say they are still investigating the incident.
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A Florida father who called police to say his 3-year-old daughter had been abducted from his driveway — causing a state-wide search and national news coverage — fabricated parts of his story, police say.
Police in Apopka, Florida, said in a statement Tuesday that the details of Lester Mejia's story were untrue and that his daughter, Madeline Mejia, had been with her mother, Tania Duarte.
"Mr. Mejia was scared he would not see his daughter again so he provided the abduction story in hopes it would assist in recovering his daughter," police said.
Mejia, who has full custody of his daughter, had told police on Monday that he had put Madeline in his car, and when he ran inside his home to grab his keys, he heard her scream.
He told police he saw a car with Texas license plates driving away with Madeline inside, CNN affiliate WFTV reported.
An Amber Alert was issued, and Madeline was found hours later in Tallahassee, Florida, with her mother. Duarte, her boyfriend, and two others were detained by police in the incident.
Police said Duarte told them she did not have custody of Madeline, but she also said she did not take the girl by force.
Police said in their statement that Mejia was interviewed again, and officers determined that he "was not completely forthcoming with the original information."
He told police that he had known Madeline's mother had taken her, and that he had called 911 from work, not his home after a relative told him Madeline had been taken by Duarte.
Duarte is not a US citizen, and Mejia was given sole custody of the girl by a US immigration court, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
Police said a dispatch center employee told Mejia that there was "no crime if the mother has the child," so he "provided the abduction story."
Madeline has been returned to Mejia's custody, and police are still investigating the situation. Meija has not been charged with making false statements to police.
According to court documents seen by the Tallahassee Democrat, the Duarte told Mejia that she wanted to take Madeline to Texas.
"The mother knew the father had full custody of the child," the court records said, according to The Democrat. "The mother told the father earlier in the week that she wanted to take the child to Texas, and the father refused to let the child go. [She] waited for the father to go to work and she had her boyfriend pick her and [her] daughter up to take her to Texas."
Duarte and her boyfriend, Kevin Smith Olmedo-Velis, were arrested on charges of interference with child custody and booked into the Leon County jail.
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