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Former Lackawanna man accused of selling girl into marriage in Yemen is detained

Yousef Goba, the former Lackawanna man accused of selling a local girl into marriage in Yemen, was ordered detained Friday.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael J. Roemer called Goba a flight risk and a potential danger to the underage girl at the center of the extortion charges against him.

The girl, who was 14 at the time, is a relative from Lackawanna.

In seeking Goba's continued detention, prosecutors acknowledged he's a U.S. citizen but noted he spent the four years prior to his arrest this month living in Yemen.

"Given his few ties to Western New York, and stale as they are, they certainly make him a flight risk," Assistant U.S. Attorney Wei Xiang told Roemer.

Arrested in New York City while returning here, Goba, who is the brother of Lackawanna Six member Yahya Goba, is accused of abducting the girl two years ago, holding her in Yemen and eventually selling her into a marriage with his brother-in-law.

The FBI says the girl's mother, who has since divorced her husband and remarried, took the children to Yemen in September 2013 to live temporarily so their father could save money while working here.

The following summer, after spending time with the father’s family in Yemen, the mother and children moved in with Goba, according to investigators.

Defense lawyer Thomas C. Farley says the girl's father was supposed to send money to Goba to help with his family's living expenses but turned out to be a "deadbeat dad."

"This case is about child support," Farley told Roemer during a hearing.

Xiang rejected Farley's argument and pointed to text messages and phone calls in which Goba demanded money in return for the girl’s release.

Throughout the scheme, investigators say, Goba threatened to marry off the girl to a Yemeni national willing to pay for her. They also claim Goba sent the father a photo of the girl pointing to a wedding cake and a second picture of her with a ring on her finger.

"Threatening to marry off the father's 14-year old daughter is not an appropriate manner to settle financial issues," Xiang said of the child support claims.

Sources said there appears to be no connection between Goba’s case and his brother’s involvement with the Lackawanna Six.

Yahya Goba, described by prosecutors as the ringleader of the Lackawanna Six, was sentenced in 2003 to 10 years in prison after admitting he trained at an al-Qaida camp in Afghanistan in 2001.

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