“Runaway Mom” Bails Out, Seeks Help

Bonnie Sweeten may have stolen up to $700,000 to pay for a fancy house, car and in vitro fertilization.

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Orlando Police Dept.

"Runaway Mom" Bonnie Sweeten was a free woman Saturday thanks to her loved ones after they raised enough money to bail her out of prison, according to sources. She was released from the Bucks County Prison after posting $100,000 cash.

Sweeten was staying at an undisclosed location Saturday night, neighbors told NBC 10 News. She planned on seeking out psychiatric care with the help of family and friends, according to her lawyer.

She arrived at Philadelphia International Airport around 9:30 p.m. Friday and was taken to court for her preliminary arraignment.

A district judge in the Philadelphia suburb of Richboro, Pa. said that the Feasterville woman was a flight risk before her trial so he put bail at $1 million. Sweeten had to post 10 percent of that sum to get out of the slammer.

Sweeten -- the white woman who claimed she and her daughter had been thrown in a trunk and abducted by two black men -- may have stolen up to $700,000 to finance a lavish lifestyle, according to The Burlington County Times. That may be the reason for the abduction hoax Sweeten used to make her great escape to Disney World with her 9-year old daughter.

The paper reported Friday morning that police believe Sweeten may have taken between $300,000 and 700,000 while she worked at a personal injury law firm. She allegedly used the money to maintain a lifestyle that included bills totaling $100,000 for in vitro fertilization, a $425,000 house in the 'burbs and a $50,000 SUV (that nice gold Denali Sweeten claimed she was abducted from).

Sweeten may have been trying to pay off thefts before victims, which include family members, according to the paper, went to police. She wrote a $285,000 check to one of the victims from a family landscaping business account, but it bounced last week, police said. Sweeten may have been trying to change a $20,000 check from her parents to read $285,000, according to the report.

Sweeten agreed during her extradition hearing Friday morning to come home. Bucks County officials were already in Orlando to take her into their custody and process her for the trip home to face charges of identity theft and filing a false report. Her daughter, Julia, was brought home late Thursday by her dad, Anthony Rakoczy.

"We were all duped," one investigator said. Sweeten used a former co-worker's ID to get all the way to Disney World, incognito, prosecutors said. Jill Jenkinson said she had no idea Sweeten would use her driver's license to fake an abduction. Sweeten told her she needed to borrow the license to fix a discrepancy on her 401(k), Jenkinson said. Sweeten is an office manager and handles all employee's pension accounts, so Jenkinson said asking for the ID "seemed innocent." Jenkinson said she is also missing $4,000 from a retirement fund.

Surveillance video showed Sweeten and her daughter boarding an airplane at Philadelphia International Airport bound for Orlando, Fla., around 4:15 p.m. Tuesday afternoon. Rakoczy didn't have to show any identification because she's a child.

HOW IT BEGAN

This story began Tuesday afternoon when the Philadelphia 9-1-1 dispatch center received a call from Sweeten, who claimed she'd been kidnapped and locked in the trunk of a car.

Sweeten told dispatchers she and her daughter had been physically hit and thrown into the back of a dark-colored 1990's Cadillac by two black men after they rear-ended her silver GMC Yukon Denali in Southampton, Pa. When police got to scene at Street Road and Second Street Pike, they didn't find any evidence and were not able to find anyone who saw an accident, FBI Special Agent J.J. Klaver said.

Officials traced Sweeten's call to a cell tower in the 200 block of 12th Street in Philadelphia. Police searched the area for both cars at that point and didn't find either. 9-1-1 operators took more than half a dozen calls from Sweeten's cell phone Tuesday afternoon, but were only able to speak with the woman twice, police sources said. Soon after the last call, Sweeten's phone was shut off.

Almost 12 hours later, at 1:30 a.m., a Philly police officer discovered Sweeten's silver GMC Yukon Denali at 15th and Chestnut Streets in Center City. The truck was found just five blocks from where police first traced the mother's frantic cell phone call. Ironically, there was a parking ticket on the windshield with a time stamp of 2:20 p.m., police said. There was no sign of any fender bender, prosecutors said.

As the inconsistencies mounted, officials continued to treat the case as a kidnapping. Police issued two Amber Alerts for the little girl as FBI officials turned their focus to surveillance video near the scene where the SUV was found.

A HUSBAND'S PLEA

The case put Sweeten's family, friends and the entire Philadelphia region on an emotional roller coaster. Her husband, Larry Sweeten, made an tearful plea to his wife Wednesday afternoon.

"I don't know what’s going on, Bon, but here's your daughter…she misses you," said Sweeten, with a rocky voice while holding his youngest daughter, 8-month old Faith, up to a TV camera. "You have a ton of support. Whatever kind of trouble you're in, whatever's going on everybody will come together and help you out. I'm here for you. We have a brand-new daughter who needs her Mom. Please come home and turn yourself in and don't do anything stupid."

Larry said he had "no idea" why his his wife would flee to Florida. Sweeten said most of his information on his wife and step-daughter's was coming through the local news. Even when the new embezzlement allegations surfaced, Larry told The Today Show's Matt Lauer Friday he "had no clue," what was going on.

THE EFFECTS

Sweeten, a married mother of three from Feasterville, claimed she was driving her husband Larry's SUV to a doctor's appointment at the time of the abduction. Larry is Julia's stepfather. Julia's biological father, Anthony Rakoczy, had nothing but good things to say about his ex-wife, "She's a great mother. She's very organized. Always on top of the stuff the girls have going on…She's just a very good mother."

Rakoczy made a plea for their return on national television Wednesday morning during an interview on "The Today Show."

"I would like to tell them to let them go there's no reason to keep them I don't understand why they'd want to keep them. Just let them go. I mean, you know, we don't have money," said Anthony Rakoczy. He had a hard time keeping his composure as he talked about his daughter Julia, who he'd just spent Memorial Day with, "She loves the Phillies. She plays softball. She's always dancing around the house."

Sweeten's oldest daughter, Paige, 15, wrote about the kidnapping on her Facebook page saying, "I'm asking everyone, to please pray for my Mom and sister pray please."

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