IT LOOKS LIKE 9-year-old Julia Rakoczy's thrill ride through the national headlines didn't end on the tea cups at Disney World.
Safely reunited with her dad after her mom's sensational bogus kidnap report that took over a 24-hour news cycle, the Bucks County grade-schooler arrived safely home late last night, but is slated for another star turn on national TV.
For that we can apparently thank the deep pockets of ABC television - ironically, also owned by the Walt Disney Co. - which paid for Anthony Rakoczy to fly to Florida yesterday to collect his daughter, according to an Inquirer report attributed to the Orange County, Fla., Sheriff's Department.
One American who probably won't be watching is Julia's mom, Bonnie Sweeten, 38, who was scheduled for a hearing in an Orlando courtroom at 9 a.m. today, the first step toward her own more downbeat return to Bucks County.
The suburban mom is facing charges of identity theft and of making a false report after her remarkable tale - that she and her daughter had been kidnapped on busy Street Road in Bucks County by black men who forced them into the trunk of a Cadillac - unraveled in the course of a day of solid police work.
The reportedly ABC-funded reunion was a fitting exclamation point on a bizarre story in which the lines between fact and fiction, news and entertainment were blurred during a 29-hour odyssey that started on the streets of Southampton, moved to Center City and ended in the shadow of Fantasyland.
About 9 last night, two black vans pulled up to Rakoczy's home in Feasterville as friends opened the house and cleared a path. Little Julia emerged sheepishly from a van, wearing a green baseball cap, T-shirt and jeans. Anthony Rakoczy yelled to a throng of waiting journalists: "Get off my property! Everybody, get off my lawn!"
The Web site of ABC's "Good Morning America" said it would broadcast at 7 this morning his "emotional reunion" with Julia.
Yesterday he told "Good Morning America," speaking of Julia's mom, his ex-wife, "I've known this woman for a long time. She's always been very together, tons of friends. Everybody loves her."
Meanwhile, it's hardly a storybook ending for Sweeten, who faces criminal charges for the kidnapping hoax and is also under investigation for allegedly stealing money from a law firm for which she once worked.
Sweeten, the mother of three - Julia and 15-year-old Paige with first husband Rakoczy and 8-month-old Faith with current husband Richard Sweeten - got an online message of support from her oldest daughter.
"Mom i know you cant read this, but your [sic] my whole life your my mommy thats a big role you made me the person I am today you thought [sic] me so many things and your maybe just in a bad place for what ever reason," Paige Rakoczy wrote on Sweeten's Facebook page last night.
"im not mad i hold nothing against you, i just wanna see you and hug you and just be with you again . . . "
New details emerged yesterday about Sweeten's escapades, including how she allegedly scammed a former co-worker to obtain her driver's license, which she then is accused of using to buy a pair of one-way airline tickets to Orlando for her and Julia.
Sweeten went to the house of the former co-worker, Jillian Jenkinson, between 12:30 and 1:15 p.m. Tuesday - not long before the phony kidnap report - and asked for her driver's license under the false pretense that she needed it to roll over Jenkinson's 401(k), court documents said. Jenkinson gave her license to Sweeten, who never returned, police said.
Instead, Sweeten used the license, and $12,000 in cash, to buy the tickets at the airport for a 4:15 p.m. flight Tuesday to Orlando, using the names Jillian and Noel Jenkinson, court records said.
One question that seemed to puzzle many who watched Sweeten's saga unfold was how she had been able to buy plane tickets using ID that belonged to Jenkinson. "They actually do look a little bit alike, so she [Sweeten] was able to make it work," one investigator said.
Michelle Henry, Bucks County's district attorney, said that Jenkinson saw news of Sweeten's alleged abduction and told police what had happened.
Several attempts to reach Jenkinson were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, investigators in Bucks County may have their hands full untangling the broader investigation involving Sweeten and alleged financial shenanigans, and whether those are linked in any way to her ability to finance the fake-kidnap caper with thousands of dollars in cash.
Sweeten's former employer, Debbie Carlitz told the Daily News on Wednesday that Sweeten had stolen money from her law practice and laundered it through Car-litz's charitable foundation.
Though Henry declined to comment on the allegations, reports have put the theft at more than six figures, though Sweeten has not been charged with theft. Last night, the Inquirer reported that Bucks County authorities have probed whether she might have fleeced $300,000 or more from an investment account belonging to a relative of her ex-husband.
Yesterday, Carlitz released a statement through her attorney saying that the Carlitz Foundation was privately funded by herself and her husband and that "no outside donor money was lost or stolen."
What prosecutors will say is that Sweeten withdrew the $12,000 from several accounts over the course of several days beginning last week.
Investigators are trying to determine why Sweeten made several calls to 9-1-1 Tuesday claiming that the vehicle in which she and her daughter were riding had been rear-ended, and that they had been carjacked and kidnapped on Street Road in Upper Southampton Township by two black men in a black Cadillac.
She told dispatchers that the men had struck both her and her daughter and that she was calling from the inside of the trunk, according to court documents.
Sweeten even called her current husband and left a tearful voice mail in which she said that she loved him and that if she didn't see him again, "to tell the children she loved them," the arrest affidavit said.
Early Wednesday, police and FBI agents had traced Sweeten's undamaged SUV at 15th and Chestnut streets, in Center City, established that the "kidnapping" timeline didn't add up, and finally traced the mother and daughter's air travels to Orlando.
Allen Moore, Orange County Corrections spokesman, said Sweeten was expected to waive her extradition rights at her hearing this morning. *