A father who talked a cab driver into dropping his infant daughter off at a New York City firehouse is on the run, apparently fearing arrest because the baby's mother is only 14 years old, authorities said today.
Little Daniella, the 6-month-old girl who melted the heart of New York, is now being cared for by a city welfare agency. So is the teenage mother who abandoned her.
Still missing from this fractured family is Daniella's 27-year-old dad, Carlos Rodas. Rodas hasn't been seen since Feb. 29, when he talked cabbie Klever Sailema into taking Daniella to a firehouse.
Rodas almost certainly faces prosecution for statutory rape since the mother is under the age of consent. It is also possible that he could face charges of child endangerment.
Rodas' sister, Maria Siachivay, urged her brother today to stop running.
"Please turn yourself in. It's the best thing you can do," said Siavichay.
Siachivay, a waitress from Ecuador who is in the country illegally, and her cabbie boyfriend, Sailema, were drawn into a plot to abandon the baby, Siachivay said.
Sailema, at the request of Siachivay and Rodas, took little Daniella to a firehouse last week. There the driver claimed that a man had bolted from his cab and abandoned the baby in his back seat.
Sailema and Siachivay have been charged with filing a false report, and they emerged Monday to apologize to the city for lying.
"Publicly I would like to apologize, for making up something that didn't exist and wasn't fair," Sailema said through an interpreter. "My only purpose was to do the right thing."
With the help of a translator, Siavhicahy explained that her brother had given up the baby because he could no longer care for her. She said her brother had at least one previous brush with the law and, because his girlfriend was a minor, was afraid he would be arrested.
The teen mom apparently abandoned the baby with Rodas, and the father was unable to care for Daniella. Siavichay described how before leaving the baby with the cab driver, Rodas "hugged the baby, said 'Sorry, there's nothing else I can do for you,' kissed the baby and left crying."
It is unclear how Rodas met the 14-year-old, but Fernando Mateo, the spokesman for the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, said that Rodas somehow got her out of a Maryland detention center.
Siavichay may also be facing legal complications. The waitress, who had helped care for the baby for almost five months, is in the country illegally. She works 12 hour days to support her own 4-year-old child back home in Ecuador, and could now be deported.
Sailema, who is the only one of the three in the country legally, says he agreed to drop off Daniella at a firehouse to make sure she wouldn't be abandoned, and while he admits his lying was wrong, he pleaded that he was only trying to keep the baby safe.
"This is a case of good people doing what they thought was the right thing with absolutely no attention of breaking any laws," said Sailema's lawyer, Kevin Faga. "It's my firm belief they had nothing but the best interest of the baby at heart."
Mateo called Sailema a "hero" for safely taking the baby to the firehouse and said he urged Queens District Attorney Richard Brown to drop charges against Sailema and Siachivay.
Brown's spokeswoman Helen Peterson declined to comment as to whether the charges would be dropped against the two.