A Florida man embellished details of his 3-year-old daughter's kidnapping because he didn't believe police would would take her abduction by her mother seriously, authorities said Tuesday.
Investigators re-interviewed Lester Mejia on Monday after his daughter was recovered within several hours of being taken near Orlando, Apopka Police Sgt. Kim Walsh said in a statement.
Mejia told detectives a relative had contacted him at work Monday to inform him that his daughter's mother, Tania Fortin-Duarte, 18, had taken the girl. He explained that he called 911 while returning to his Apopka home, but a dispatcher told him there was no crime if the mother had the child, police said. Fearing that he wouldn't see his daughter again, he made up a story of unknown abductors, officials said.
Get South Florida local news, weather forecasts and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC South Florida newsletters.
Mejia initially told investigators that he and his daughter were in their front yard around 6 a.m. Monday. Mejia said he went back inside to get his keys and heard his daughter screaming as a man took her into a black Honda with a temporary Texas license plate. The father said he jumped into his own car and chased the vehicle until he lost sight of it on Interstate 75, according to the initial account.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement issued an AMBER alert around 9:30 a.m. State troopers pulled over the car around 11 a.m. that day on Interstate 10 near Tallahassee, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) from where the girl was taken.
Despite the fabrication, police said, Mejia did have lawful custody of his daughter and that she was taken illegally. Fortin-Duarte and her boyfriend, Kevin Olmeda-Velis, 19, were arrested on out-of-county warrants for interference with custody. Jail records didn't list attorneys for them. Two others in the car were arrested by immigration officers, police said. Investigators didn't immediately say where the group was headed.
No charges were immediately reported against Mejia related to his initial account to police.