Florida man accused of kidnapping his wife in Spain stole license plate in Serbia, FBI says

A Broward man whose estranged wife has been missing in Spain since early February stole a license plate in his native Serbia to cover his tracks as he drove a rental car from Belgrade to Madrid as part of an alleged plot to kidnap her in the Spanish capital, an FBI agent testified Tuesday.

In a new disclosure, FBI agent Alexandra Montillo accused David Knezevich of stealing the license plate in Serbia soon after he rented a Peugot 308 in Belgrade on Jan. 29, 2024, and drove thousands of miles to Madrid to abduct his wife, Ana María Knezevich Henao, four days later.

“Do you have evidence of that?” Knezevich’s Miami defense attorney, Jayne Weintraub, asked the agent during a detention hearing in Miami federal court.

“I have actual evidence, yes,” Montillo said, highlighting the new FBI evidence about the Serbian license plate. “I have circumstantial evidence.”

The agent cited a license plate reader and cell tower data provided by Spanish authorities indicating Knezevich passed through toll booths with the stolen Serbian license plate as he approached Madrid in late January. She also said Serbian authorities confirmed the plate was stolen.

Knezevich, she said, replaced that plate with another one stolen in Spain before he allegedly kidnapped his wife on Feb. 2. Spanish authorities confirmed that plate was stolen in Madrid.

The additional details of the federal kidnapping case against the Fort Lauderdale man were revealed during his detention hearing Tuesday as Weintraub sought Knezevich’s release on bond while challenging the FBI’s evidence. Although the FBI agent testified about the stolen Serbian license plate, she could not confirm she had “direct” evidence showing that Knezevich stole it and put it on his rented Peugot.

READ MORE: ‘We miss her’: Brother of Fort Lauderdale woman who vanished in Spain pleads for help

The detention hearing before U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams ended without any decision. Instead, after the hearing, Weintraub asked a magistrate judge who ordered Knezevich’s detention to reopen his review. That will allow her to challenge the prosecution’s new evidence and timeline of the alleged kidnapping as well as the U.S. government’s jurisdiction for bringing the case in Miami.

Fighting over millions

In May, Knezevich, 36, was indicted on a single federal charge of traveling from Miami to Madrid to kidnap his wife between Jan. 27 and Feb. 5. The wife, who is only identified as a “victim” in the indictment, is Ana Knezevich, 40. She left for Spain in late December as the Fort Lauderdale couple was going through a divorce, including a fight over millions of dollars in joint assets.

The wife, a Colombia native, has been reported missing since she was last seen in Madrid on Feb. 2, according to Spain’s National Police, which is investigating her disappearance as a possible murder case and has conducted searches for her body. FBI agents have assisted Spanish authorities in those searches.

Knezevich was arrested in early May at Miami International Airport by FBI agents when returning from Serbia, where his mother lives. Since his arrest, he has been held at the Federal Detention Center in Miami. If convicted of the single kidnapping charge, he faces up to life in prison and the loss of any money stemming from the offense.

Bitter divorce a motive, feds say

Knezevich was previously denied bond in Miami federal court by Magistrate Judge Edwin G. Torres. The judge found that his wealth and connections abroad made him a flight risk.

In his detention order, Torres spelled out his reasoning for keeping Knezevich locked up before trial.

“A great deal of circumstantial evidence supports the government’s complaint, including [the] defendant’s documented travel through extraordinary means from the United States to Turkey and then to Spain,” Torres wrote. “Additionally, the defendant appears on video surveillance in Spain purchasing materials [at a hardware store] that may have been used in a kidnapping, all while the defendant claims to have been elsewhere.

David Knezevich was spotted on surveillance video purchasing materials in a hardware store in Spain that may have been used in his wife’s kidnapping in Madrid, according to the FBI.
David Knezevich was spotted on surveillance video purchasing materials in a hardware store in Spain that may have been used in his wife’s kidnapping in Madrid, according to the FBI.

“The government’s complaint is also supported by a strong motive that [the] defendant may have had to commit this offense given his bitter divorce with the victim.”

Knezevich’s lawyer, Weintraub, responded in a court filing that he should be released because he has lived in Fort Lauderdale for the past 15 years, is close to a brother who lives in the same area, and owns an information technology business along with real estate investments.

Defense attorney: ‘no evidence’ of wife kidnapped in Madrid

She also pointed out that “most of his ‘means’ are tied up in second mortgages” and that his estranged wife’s family has opened up a conservatorship to manage her property, leaving Knezevich with “very little money available at all.”

In the filing, Weintraub also said there’s “no evidence” indicating Knezevich’s wife “was taken against her will” or that she had a struggle with her estranged husband in her Madrid apartment before disappearing.

More significantly, she said “there is absolutely no evidence” that Knezevich took any action in the United States to facilitate the alleged kidnapping in Spain. She said he was in Belgrade to visit his mother.

In response, federal prosecutors said Knezevich is both a flight risk and danger to the community. In a court filing, they argued he was trying to hide his tracks from the moment he left Miami in late January to hunt down his wife.

Two stolen license plates, prosecutors say

“Specifically, rather than flying directly into Spain, the defendant sought to conceal his travel to Madrid by flying into Istanbul, Turkey, and then driving over 5,000 kilometers through multiple countries to Madrid,” prosecutors said. “During his journey, the defendant used at least two stolen license plates — one from Serbia and one from Spain — in order to further obscure his travel to Madrid.

“The defendant also purchased the spray paint and duct tape he used to commit the kidnapping in cash, making it more difficult to track his movements,” noting a security camera at the wife’s apartment in Madrid captured someone who looked like Knezevich painting the camera and using the tape to keep the front door open to the building. The footage also captured him carrying a suitcase down the stairway of her building on Feb. 2, the day of her disappearance.

David Knezevich was recorded on surveillance cameras while spray-painting cameras at his wife’s apartment complex in Spain, according to the FBI.
David Knezevich was recorded on surveillance cameras while spray-painting cameras at his wife’s apartment complex in Spain, according to the FBI.

They further noted the defendant reported to the court’s probation office that his estimated net worth is about $2.5 million after selling seven residential properties in Broward for about $6.7 million between December 2003 and February 2024, before his estranged wife’s disappearance in Spain.

Knezevich then lent the bulk of the proceeds to the purchaser of the properties, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Lacee Monk, who added that a title agent questioned by the FBI said he is holding $214,000 in an escrow account for Knezevich. Knesevich did not disclose that money to the probation office, Monk said.

Knezevich hasn’t been charged with the murder of Ana, his wife of 13 years. That is a possibility, if Spain’s National Police or the FBI recover his wife’s body.

David Knezevich
David Knezevich

As of now, it’s not even known if she’s dead.

After Tuesday’s hearing, her brother, Felipe Henao, told reporters that he and his family have faith in the U.S. justice system: “We trust there is is going to be justice for my sister.”