FRESNO, Calif. – A California mother and former dean of a Missouri boarding school for troubled youth were charged last week for a scheme to take the woman’s teenage son against his will and bring him to the Show Me State.
Prosecutors with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California unsealed a federal indictment on Tuesday accusing Shana Gaviola, 35, and Julio Sandoval, 41, of violating a protective order and hiring people to, in essence, kidnap Gaviola’s own son in July 2021. At the time, Sandoval was the dean of the Agapè Boarding School in Stockton, Missouri, and the founder of an agency that transported minors to the school.
According to court documents, Gaviola’s son began living apart from her in 2020 and moved in with another family. In July 2021, the teen filed a domestic violence restraining order against his mother with Fresno County Superior Court and also petitioned for emancipation. The judge approved the order of protection, prohibiting Gaviola from harassing, striking, threatening, assaulting, hitting, following, stalking, molesting, disturbing the peace, keeping under surveillance, blocking the movements of her son, or contacting him in any way, including directly or indirectly, and from denying his use and possessing his phone.
Prosecutors allege that over the next few weeks, Gaviola contacted Sandoval and the two planned to have Sandoval’s agency take her son to the boarding school.
Gaviola learned where her son would be on the morning of Aug. 21, 2021, and Sandoval directed his agents to detain the boy at a local Fresno business. The agents handcuffed the teen and forced him into their car. The teen remained handcuffed for more than 24 hours while being taken to Stockton, Missouri.
The teen remained at the boarding school until his father arrived to take him home.
If convicted, Gaviola and Sandoval each face a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.