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Pa. millionaire takes back 2 children in custody battle

Thursday, April 15, 1999

By Mackenzie Carpenter, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Eighteen months after launching a worldwide hunt for his two young daughters -- and offering an unprecedented $2 million reward for their return -- multimillionaire Bipin Shah tracked them down Saturday at their mother's home in Lucerne, Switzerland, and whisked them back to his home in Philadelphia.

The two girls, Sarah Lynn, 9, and Genevieve Marie, 7, are staying with Shah in Rosemont, on Philadelphia's Main Line, Shah's publicist said.

Their mother and Shah's ex-wife, Ellen Dever, remained in Switzerland.

In June 1997, Dever invited the Post-Gazette to photograph her as she prepared to enter an underground network of safe houses run by Faye Yager, an Atlanta woman whose activities were documented in a five-part series, "Children of the Underground," which appeared in the PG in December of that year.

Dever, who declined to be interviewed for the series, fled after what she claimed were years of physical abuse by her husband, prompting her to take out three protective orders against him.

She later told Yager that she feared for her life, although she never accused Shah of abusing the children.

Shah, who declined to be interviewed yesterday, has denied Dever's allegations.

The children's return to the United States, which was announced by Shah's publicist Ed Eisen, is the latest chapter in a custody battle that attracted national publicity -- in part because of the size of Shah's reward money, which has since been withdrawn. Shah, who is a former CoreStates bank executive who helped develop the MAC automated-teller network, found his children on his own after spending $3.2 million, Eisen said.

But interest also focused on the role of Yager, a doctor's wife who, until last year, ran an international underground network that circumvented custody orders by assisting parents, usually mothers, in hiding their children from what they claimed was physical or sexual abuse by the other parent.

Shah, for his part, vowed to destroy Yager and sued her for $100 million in federal court in Atlanta for conspiring to hide his children. The U.S. attorney in Philadelphia convened a federal grand jury to investigate her activities. And even after Yager announced that she was shutting down her underground operations and moving to Brevard, N.C., to open a bed-and-breakfast, she was watched carefully by Shah's investigators -- as well as numerous bounty hunters eager to earn the $2 million reward.

Neither Dever nor members of her family could be reached for comment. While a federal arrest warrant against Dever is pending, it is not clear if the FBI plans to pursue efforts to extradite her.

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