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Man who fled to South Pacific with son on sailboat pleads guilty

    Jeffrey Ford Hanson

SEATTLE >> A Seattle man who fled the United States with his 9-year-old son on a sailboat last fall pleaded guilty on Monday to one count of international parental kidnapping.

Jeffrey Ford Hanson’s son was visiting in July and was supposed to be sent back to his mother in Pennsylvania on Sept. 4, but the boy was not on the flight. Hanson and the boy’s mother were divorced, but he had monthly visitation rights for up to six consecutive days, according to court records.

The boy’s mother contacted authorities and they issued a U.S. federal arrest warrant on Sept. 12.

Authorities found Hanson and the boy on Oct. 29 on the island country of Niue, located in the South Pacific Ocean, northeast of New Zealand. They took Hanson into custody and worked to reunite the boy with his mother in Hazleton, Pennsylvania.

Hanson’s friends told Seattle Police Detective Bryan Van Brunt that Hanson lived on a boat, was dangerous and had a history of alcohol and drug abuse, according to an affidavit attached to a criminal complaint.

One friend, Carey Jambresic, told Van Brunt that Hanson planned to take the boy by boat to Washington’s San Juan Islands. Jambresic told the detective that the boy could not swim and said Hanson was actively smoking crystal methamphetamine, taking oxycontin and drinking alcohol, the affidavit said.

Another friend, Dawnya Robinson, told the detective that Hanson sent her a text message saying he was leaving the country, going to Mexico and taking his son, the affidavit said. Hanson told another friend that he had enough money to keep his boat, Draco, afloat, and made references to Cape Horn on the southern tip of South America.

Hanson was brought back to the U.S. in November where he was formally charged in a Los Angeles federal court. He was then moved to Seattle.

He pleaded not guilty on Dec. 18 in U.S. District Court in Seattle and his trial was set for Feb. 17. It was later moved to May 11, but during a hearing early Monday, he changed his plea to guilty.

Sentencing was set for June 6. Hanson faces up to three years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

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