PATRICK E. JONES Reporting: The executive director of a company known as International Adoption Guides Inc. was apprehended in Belize and returned to the United States to face criminal charges.
Mary Mooney, 53, of Belmont, North Carolina is one of four IAG employees who have been indicted on conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with the company’s operations in Ethiopia.
According to a statement put out by the US Department of Justice, the other individuals indicted are Haile Mekonnen, an Ethiopian national who ran IAG’s operations in that country; “international program director and coordinator for IAG, James Harding, 53, of Lawrenceville, Ga., was arrested today in Georgia and Alisa Bivens, 42, of Gastonia, N.C., who oversaw the Ethiopian operations from the United States.”
They were scheduled to make an appearance at the U.S. District Court in Charleston, S.C today.
The Department of Justice statement quotes the Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman as saying that “the defendants are accused of obtaining adoption decrees and U.S. visas by submitting fraudulent adoption contracts signed by orphanages that never cared for or housed the children, thus undermining the very laws that are designed to protect the children and families involved.”
Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman went on to say that “as today’s indictments show, the Justice Department, alongside its partners both here and abroad, will respond vigorously to these criminal schemes and will act to protect the many families and children who rely on the integrity of the adoption process.”
According to the indictment, the defendants allegedly engaged in a five-year conspiracy to violate laws relating to the adoption of Ethiopian children by U.S. parents.
“The scheme involved, among other things, paying orphanages to “sign off” on contracts of adoption with the adopting parents as if the children had been raised by those orphanages — even though the children had never resided in those orphanages and had not been cared for or raised there. These orphanages could not, therefore, properly offer these children up for adoption. In some instances, the children resided with a parent or relative,” says the Department of Justice press release.
As part of the charged conspiracy, the defendants then allegedly submitted or caused to be submitted these fraudulent contracts of adoption to Ethiopian courts in order to secure adoption decrees, and submitted or caused to be submitted the fraudulent contracts of adoption and the fraudulently procured adoption decrees to the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia in order to obtain U.S. visas for the children to travel to the United States to be with their new families.
The indictment also charges that the defendants’ scheme involved paying bribes to an Ethiopian government official and agreeing to create counterfeit U.S. Customs and Immigration Service forms that were to be submitted to the Ethiopian government.
The charge of conspiring to defraud the United States carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value gained or lost.
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