Sam Horton of Greenville, S.C. was sentenced in a federal court to the maximum sentence of 10 years for falsifying a passport document. He has also been sentenced to three years of supervised release once is out of prison.
Horton, 38, took his then 3-year-old daughter Zoie to start a new life in Phuket, Thailand, after claiming the two were going to Disney World during a planned custodial outing. At the time, his ex-wife, Cindy Horton, had custody of Zoie and the couple's son, Zane, born after the two divorced. Horton says he had requested 50/50 custody from the courts but was denied, receiving visitation instead. Prosecutors said he forged his ex-wife's to obtain the passport for his then 3-year-old daughter Zoie.
Cindy Horton said she learned that her child might be in Thailand when a friend checked out the MySpace page of the woman Sam had recently married. The page indicated the couple and Zoie had been in Bangkok. The discovery prompted Horton to check into passports and she learned that her signature had been faked in order for her daughter to receive a passport.
Janis Hall, Cindy Horton's attorney, said she and her client faced several procedural hurdles in their efforts to get the child and her father returned to the U.S. She said, "In the state system, Sam Horton could not be charged with kidnapping because his parental rights at that time had not been terminated."
Hall said Horton was also expected to plead guilty to a state charge of violating a custody order. She and her client agreed to drop that charge but it was taken under consideration by the federal judge when deciding on a sentence.