'The Snatchback:' Man Works to Bring Home Abducted Children

Gustavo Zamora makes a living tracking down and returning kids taken abroad.

Nov. 12, 2010— -- From the tangled jungles of the Amazon to the cities of the Middle East, Gustavo Zamora crisscrosses the world, tracking and bringing home abducted American children after fierce custody battles go awry.

Zamora, a former Army ranger, now owns a private international security services company called Zamora & Associates based in Florida. With his own son at his side, Zamora specializes in what is sometimes called "the snatchback" -- re-abducting children who were taken out of the country by one parent without the other parent's consent. In one case, Zamora found a stolen child with his client's estranged boyfriend.

"I found the boyfriend living in Costa Rica under an assumed name," he said. "We followed him and videotaped him with the child in a mall."

Zamora said he has "snatched back" 55 children and all have been "clandestine, aggressive recoveries." He said that while he has never been arrested, he has gotten into some dangerous scrapes.

"I've been in situations where, yes, there's been people taking shots that people at random. And those kinds of things happen, but in 99 percent of these cases, that's not the case," he said.

"You don't want to get [caught] with a weapon, with a handgun, because that just will add...to the charges placed against you," Zamora said. "It's bad enough if you get caught in a recovery and they charge you with kidnapping. The last thing you want is a weapons charge."

Like a real-life James Bond, Zamora has a fondness for night-vision goggles and endures risky border crossings, all for large awards. Aside from reuniting families, something Zamora started doing for the thrill, his fees reach can upwards of $100,000 from clients who he said are usually "damaged people."

Gus Zamora on the Case

"They've gone through emotional stress...the trauma of losing a child, and every parent that I see exhibits the same type of emotional distress," he said.

He added that in these re-abduction cases, his clients often turn to him as a last resort.

"I talk to parents and a year later they've come to me and said, 'Look, I've spent $50,000. My attorneys can't do anything. The FBI can't do anything. I'm ready to hire you,'" he said. "So many of the parents who come to me are very decent, honest, good people...and very naive," he said.

He added that he always tells his clients up front that there are "no guarantees" that he'll be able to get their children back, and while he used to do the "snatchbacks" for the rush of the rescue, now he said he has a different motive.

"Now I think I do it more because it's the right thing to do," he said.

Zamora allowed "Nightline" to tag along with him on a case he has been working on for over a year: a father who took his young kids and fled to the Middle East without their American mother's consent.

Watch the scenario unfold TONIGHT on "Nightline" at 11:35 p.m. ET