IMAGE: ABANDONED BABY
St. John's Queen's Hospital via AP
This infant girl was reported to police by a cab driver who initially said a man had left her in his cab.
updated 3/2/2008 2:18:36 PM ET 2008-03-02T19:18:36

A cabdriver accused of making up a story about a baby being abandoned in his taxi faces charges in the abandonment of the girl that could earn him a year in jail, officials said Sunday.

The 44-year-old driver, Klever Sailema, was initially praised as a Good Samaritan after he told police an unknown man left the 6-month-old child in his livery cab.

He was arraigned late Saturday on charges of falsely reporting an incident and criminal facilitation, said Kevin Ryan, spokesman for Queens prosecutor Richard Brown. Sailema’s girlfriend, 21-year-old Maria Siavichay, was arraigned on a charge of criminal facilitation. Investigators say she is the child’s aunt.

Sailema and Siavichay were released without bail and ordered to Queens Criminal Court on April 7. They each face up to a year in jail if convicted, Ryan said.

Teen not likely to be charged
The 14-year-old mother of the child probably will not be charged because of her age, NYPD spokesman Paul Browne said. Investigators are seeking the father, said to be 27 and identified by police only as Siavichay’s brother.

Sailema’s lawyer, Kevin Faga, said the driver had “acted responsibly for the welfare of the child.”

“These are good people, and this was a case of people doing their best to do what they thought was right for the child,” he said. “Unfortunately, what they thought was right appears to be contrary to what the law allows.”

Sailema was briefly the toast of the city after he delivered the baby girl to a firehouse Thursday, telling authorities an unidentified man had left her in his cab and disappeared. A day later, detectives say, Sailema admitted he knew the 14-year-old mother’s family in the Bronx and had participated in the plan.

The case had captivated the city after pictures of the adorable baby girl were published in newspapers and broadcast on TV.

The cabbie had told investigators his fare was a nervous-looking man who had gotten in carrying the baby and a diaper bag, then disappeared after asking the driver to pull over so he could make a phone call.

Sailema provided enough detail that police released a sketch of the suspect. He repeated his tale to reporters at a news conference on Friday.

Teen was found sobbing
Police didn't immediately say what broke the case open, but a family friend, Stuart Caban, said he took the teenage mother to police Friday evening after finding her walking in the Bronx, carrying a newspaper with her daughter's picture and sobbing.

"She was depressed, scared, crying. She loved her daughter. She wanted to be with her," said Caban, a 23-year-old bail bondsman.

The girl told her she hadn't wanted to leave the baby but ran away after a violent fight with the father, Caban said.

A superintendent at the Bronx apartment building where the couple lived, Saul Navarro, 43, said the baby's father had been distraught in recent days, complaining that the mother had run off and that he couldn't care for the child alone. Navarro said that he helped the family find a baby sitter, but that she was able to care for the child for only a few days.

Girl in foster home
The baby has been placed in a foster home.

New York State Federation Of Taxi Drivers spokesman Fernando Mateo, who had championed Sailema as a hero earlier in the week, said he felt betrayed but wouldn't condemn the cabbie.

"I am looking at a desperate man who was trying to help a desperate family," Mateo said.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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