MISSOULA — A Texas woman has admitted to lying to law enforcement about the whereabouts of her son and grandson — who ultimately were found in Costa Rica — during an investigation into parental interference in Sanders County.
U.S. Attorney Jesse Laslovich says Candace Kathleen Bright, 68, of Midland, Texas, pleaded guilty to false statements during a video court appearance.
Bright faces a maximum of five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised release.
The government alleged in court documents that on Aug. 19, 2021, Bright’s son and co-defendant, Jacob Israel Strong, failed to return his son, who was four years old, to his ex-wife at the end of his visitation.
Sanders County Sheriff’s deputies were unable to locate Strong or his son. Sanders County charged Strong on Aug. 31, 2021, with felony parental interference.
The FBI opened an investigation to assist Sanders County in the search for Strong and the child, according to a news release.
The FBI interviewed Bright on a few occasions, including on Oct. 4, 2021, in which the agent told Bright that lying to a federal officer is a crime. Bright responded, “I know.”
The government further alleged that Bright repeatedly lied to the agent, telling him she did not know where Strong and her grandson were and had not seen them since approximately Aug. 17, 2021.
In December 2021, Bright called the case agent and continued to deny knowing where Strong and her grandson were located.
The FBI learned in January 2022 that Strong and his son had left the United States near Midland, Texas, in approximately October 2021 and drove through Mexico to Costa Rica.
The FBI also learned that Bright had been traveling with Strong and her grandson off and on since August.
Bright was aware of Strong’s whereabouts during all of her conversations with the FBI and was physically present when Strong and her grandson left Texas for Costa Rica.
Bright also communicated with Strong regularly using encrypted messaging services installed on both of their cellular phones.
"Bright’s lies to the FBI contributed to the time and expense of the search for Strong and his son. Had Bright been honest with the FBI, Strong and his son likely would have been found in the fall of 2021," the release states.
Strong was not arrested until May 22, 2022, nine months after he absconded with his son.
Strong has pleaded not guilty to charges in the case and is pending trial.
A sentencing date has been set for May 31, 2023, before U.S. District Judge Dana L. Christensen.