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Pa. Kidnap Hoax Mom Set To Plead In $700K Fraud

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Bonnie Sweeten

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) – A suburban Philadelphia mom who staged a racially charged hoax kidnapping amid a $700,000 fraud investigation appears ready to admit the financial crimes.

Court papers filed Wednesday show that Bonnie Sweet, 40, of Feasterville, will plead rather than go to trial next week. She is accused of stealing large sums of money from an elderly relative and the law firm where she worked. Details of her planned plea were not disclosed.

The paralegal called 911 in May 2009 to report that two black men had kidnapped her and a 9-year-old daughter. The FBI found them two days later at Disney World.

Sweeten, a mother of three, served nearly a year in county prison for the false 911 call and has been detained in federal prison ever since on the fraud charges.

She apologized in state court last year as she described a list of mounting stresses, including marriage and infertility treatments.

“I let my life slip out of control, and I did not have the proper tools or coping mechanisms to handle the enormous stress I was under,” Sweeten said. “My life imploded.”

Her defense lawyer in the federal fraud case did not immediately return a call Wednesday for comment. Prosecutors also declined comment. The hearing is set for Tuesday.

A 23-count federal indictment charges that Sweeten diverted money from her law firm and spent it on clothing, jewelry, tanning salons, gym fees and a $425,000 house. She also forged a driver’s license, passport, court order and mortgage paperwork, authorities charged.

“She’s a very good con artist,” lawyer Debbie Carlitz, her former employer, said after discovering the missing funds.

Sweeten phoned 911 from downtown Philadelphia and told dispatchers that she and her daughter had been carjacked and stuffed in the trunk of a Cadillac near their suburban home. The call touched off a frantic search that ended at a Disney World hotel.

Sweeten had withdrawn $12,000 from several bank accounts and flown to Florida with her daughter under the name of a former co-worker whose driver’s license she had taken in a ruse, authorities said.

Sweeten has three daughters from two marriages, the youngest one of whom was an infant when she fled.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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