Public Affairs Specialist Laura Eimiller
(310) 996-3343
April 11, 2024

Baby Boy Who Was Taken to Mexico by Non-Custodial Mother Found and Returned to the United States; Mother Deported to the United States and in Custody

A woman who was charged by the state of California and federally for taking her biological son to Mexico in violation of a custody order was located in the Aguascalientes region of Mexico and deported by Mexican immigration authorities. Her son was returned to the United States.   
Brigette Benitez, 31, allegedly took her biological child, Miguel Eduardo Zuniga Medina, Jr., to Mexico after Benitez failed to return him to his legal guardian following an unsupervised visit that occurred on February 6 in Walnut, California. 

Zuniga Medina Jr. was found and returned on Friday evening to the custody of the Department of Child and Family Services in Los Angeles and has been placed with a foster family.  Miguel appeared to be safe and healthy.  An updated poster can be found here:  Medina Jr.   

Investigators had established that Benitez crossed into Mexico on February 6 at the Otay Mesa Port of Entry in San Diego County prior to obtaining a federal warrant. 

A federal arrest warrant for Benitez was obtained on Thursday, March 7, after she was charged with international parental kidnapping in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles.  The complaint alleges that Benitez intentionally obstructed the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), who holds legal and physical custody of Medina, Jr.  Benitez had also been charged in Los Angeles County following an investigation by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department (LACSD).  Benitez currently remains in LACSD custody.   

Miguel Eduardo Zuniga Medina, Sr. (Zuniga Medina, Sr.) is the non-custodial father of Zuniga Medina, Jr. and is believed to be living in Aguascalientes, Mexico.  Medina, Sr. was arrested last year for an alleged domestic violence incident and has a history of engaging in violent altercations in the presence of children, according to a Juvenile Dependency Petition filed in Los Angeles County.  Following last year’s arrest, Zuniga Medina, Jr. was placed in the custody of DCFS.  The Superior Court in Los Angeles County found that it was necessary to remove Zuniga Medina, Jr. from his parents for his own health, safety, and well-being.  Zuniga Medina, Sr. has been charged in the Superior Court in Los Angeles County. 

This case is being investigated by the FBI and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the United States Marshals Service.  The United States Attorney’s Office in Los Angeles is overseeing the federal charges against Benitez.  

Multiple agencies in Mexico and the United States provided considerable assistance during the past several weeks leading to the recent arrest and rescue operation including the FBI’s Legal Attaché in Mexico City; Fiscalia General del Estado de Aguascalientes (Public Safety Office in Aguascalientes); Sistema Nacional para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (National System for Integral Family Development);  Instituto Nacional de Migración (National Institute Of Migration); and the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.