Advertisement

U.S. targets Uganda adoption scheme with charges, sanctions

More than 30 Ugandan children were adopted by U.S. clients through this scheme between 2013 and 2016, federal prosecutors said.

U.S. targets Uganda adoption scheme with charges, sanctions
Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced sanctions against four Ugandans who participated in a scheme to take children from Ugandan parents to place with American families. Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/UPI | License Photo

Aug. 17 (UPI) -- The Trump administration has filed charges and imposed sanctions against an adoption scheme that removed more than two dozen Ugandan children from their families and placed them in American homes.

The Justice Department on Monday announced a 13-count indictment filed in the Northern District of Ohio late last week charging three women with arranging adoptions of Ugandan children through bribing Ugandan officials and defrauding U.S. adoptive parents as well as participating in a polish adoption scheme.

Advertisement

The indicted names Margaret Cole, 73, of Strongsville, Ohio; Debra Parris, 68, of Lake Dallas, Texas, and Ugandan lawyer Dorah Mirembe as defendants who face a slew of conspiracy and fraud charges.

"These three defendants preyed on the emotions of parents, those wanting the best for their child and those wishing to give what they thought was an orphaned child a family to love," Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Cleveland Field Office said in a statement. "These defendants allegedly lied to both sides of the adoption process, and bribed Ugandan officials who were responsible for the welfare of children. Parents, prospective parents and children were emotionally vested and were heartbroken when they learned of the selfishness and greed in which these three engaged."

Advertisement

According to the complaint, Cole ran an adoption agency out of Strongsville that facilitated intercountry adoptions from Uganda, Poland and other countries with Parris responsible for managing aspects of the agency's Uganda program while Mirembe, a Ugandan citizen, provided them with adoption-related services, such as legal representation.

The complaint accuses Parris and Mirembe of bribing Ugandan government officials to "corruptly procure adoptions of Ugandan children" while concealing that fact from Americans seeking to adopt the children through the U.S. adoption agency.

"Many of the Ugandan children whose adoptions Parris and Mirembe had procured through bribery and fraud were not properly determined to be orphans, and certain of the children were ultimately returned to their birth mothers in Uganda after Adoption Agency's clients came to believe that these birth mothers had not knowingly given their children up for adoption," the complaint states.

RELATED 3 Mississippi officers charged with murder

More than 30 Ugandan children were adopted by U.S. clients who paid the agency more than $900,000 between 2013 and 2016 during this scheme, prosecutors said in the complaint.

The State Department said in a statement that Mirembe's law firm sought out "vulnerable families in remote Ugandan villages," promising parents that their children would be moved to Uganda's capital of Kampala to further their education.

Advertisement

Once in Kampala, the children would be placed in an unlicensed children's home and American prospective parents would travel to the African country to adopt them.

RELATED U.S. seizes millions in cryptocurrency from 3 terrorist groups

The U.S. Treasury Department on Monday sanctioned four Ugandans for participating in the scheme, stating they removed young children from Ugandan families under promises of special education programs and study in the United States.

Mirembe, her associate Patrick Ecobu and Ugandan Judges Moses Mukiibi and Wilson Musalu Musene were blacklisted Monday by the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control, blocking all property and interests in property that they control in the United States while barring American citizens from doing business with them.

The State Department said Mirembe, with Ecobu, facilitated bribes to the Ugandan judges and other government officials to fraudulently procure adoption cases.

RELATED 3 men linked to R. Kelly charged for seeking to influence victim testimonies

"Deceiving innocent Ugandan families into giving up their children for adoption has caused great suffering," Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Justin G. Muzinich said in a statement. "The individuals involved in this corrupt scam deliberately exploited the good faith of Ugandans and Americans to enrich themselves."

The Justice Department also charged Cole and Parris over transferring a Polish adoptee to Parris' relatives who were not eligible for adoption as one of them had a criminal arrest record. After the child was physically abused, Cole and Parris concealed the improper conduct from U.S. officials and from the Polish authority responsible for adoptions to continue profiting from such practices.

Advertisement

Latest Headlines

Advertisement
Advertisement

Follow Us

Advertisement