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Well-crafted adoption plan fooled parents

Date: 1999-05-29

The Arizona Daily Star

Documents show how kids came to U.S. from Mexico

Author: Rhonda Bodfield Sander

Court documents obtained yesterday provide new details into how a Douglas man and his New York partners illegally peddled Mexican babies to anxious American families.

Mario Reyes Burgue�o, a well-known lawyer with dual citizenship who practices in Mexico, was arrested earlier this week at his home. He confessed to prosecutors in early May that he illegally smuggled as many as 20 children into the United States over four years.

Two New York women, Arlene Lieberman and Arlene Reingold, also face charges of fraud and conspiring to violate immigration laws. The three could face up to 10 years in prison for each of the 17 infants they are accused of smuggling.

``There was no way to know this wasn't done legally,'' said one victim, Rosalie Liberto of Long Island, who said she's relieved the trio won't be hurting other families.


Date: 1999-05-29

New York Daily News (NY)

Families who adopted Mexican children through an illegal ring are "living with fear and anxiety" that their beloved children will be taken from them, an attorney said yesterday.

Although U.S. and Mexican authorities said the children probably will remain with their adoptive parents, attorney Aaron Britvan said nothing "can take away the feelings that anything can happen."

"Obviously, these people are going to live with anxiety until this is settled," said Britvan, who represents six of the dozen or more metro-area families allegedly victimized by the scam.

Several of the adoptive parents declined interview requests yesterday, saying they needed privacy amid the international outrage triggered by the charges.

"We're under enough pressure," said David Kruchkow, a car salesman from Bayside, Queens, who with his wife, Sara, adopted a now-3-year-old Mexican girl named Maria. "I'm trying to earn a living to provide a home and education for my child."

Woman Admits Using False Papers in Baby-Smuggling Case

Date: 1999-05-29

Woman Admits Using False Papers in Baby-Smuggling Case
Published: May 29, 1999

A Mexican woman who worked with a lawyer accused of smuggling babies from Mexico has admitted that the infants were sent to the United States under false documents but insisted that the Mexican mothers gave them up for adoption voluntarily.

Margarita Soto de Smith, 28, a resident of the Mexican border town of Agua Prieta, was arrested there by Mexican federal police on Oct. 27, 1998. In her testimony, which was recorded on videotape, Mrs. Soto told how the lawyer, Mario Manuel Reyes Burgueno, found struggling mothers who were willing to part with their newborns and then used false documents to rush the babies through the normally tedious process of clearance for adoption in the Mexican courts.

Mr. Reyes, a dual citizen of Mexico and the United States, was arrested Wednesday night at his home in Douglas, Ariz., just across the border from Agua Prieta. He is charged with conspiring to violate United States immigration laws and with mail and wire fraud.


Date: 1999-05-28

Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ)


Author: Michael Clancy, The Arizona Republic

Adoption by Americans of Mexican babies is uncommon, and two prominent local adoption attorneys say they've never been involved in one.

An average of 100 children per year have been adopted from Mexico over the past 10 years, according to State Department figures that track the number of immigration visas issued to orphans - including children adopted from overseas.

Americans adopted almost 16,000 children from other countries in 1998.

International adoption adds a layer of paperwork and worry to the process. Adoption begins with certification, a requirement in all 50 states, that ascertains the fitness of potential adoptive parents.

Application for an entry visa follows that. A typical adoption results in a file of paperwork that is several inches thick.

Two women, lawyer accused of running baby-smuggling ring

Date: 1999-05-28

The Dallas Morning News
Author: David M. Halbfinger; New York Times News Service
Dateline: GARDEN CITY, N.Y.

, - Federal prosecutors Thursday accused two New York women and a prominent lawyer on the Arizona-Mexico border of running a baby-smuggling ring in which at least 17 Mexican infants were illegally sold to unwitting adoptive parents in the New York area for $20,000 or more.

Prosecutors said Arlene Lieberman and Arlene Reingold of Long Island lured desperate would-be parents with promises of safe, easy, legal adoptions.

But the adoptions turned out to be anything but legal, prosecutors say. The lawyer, Mario Reyes, forged birth certificates and consent forms, bribed Mexican officials to look the other way, and still ultimately failed to receive the necessary approvals from U.S. immigration officials, the authorities said.

A spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service said on Thursday that the children would be allowed to remain with their adoptive parents and that the government would work to legalize their status.


Date: 1999-05-28

Mark Shaffer
The Arizona Republic

A Douglas man practicing law in Mexico and two New York women were charged Thursday with running an adoption ring that brought 17 Mexican children illegally into the country and sold them to Long Island couples for up to $22,000 apiece.

Mario Reyes, 40, of Douglas, and Arlene Lieberman, 48, and Arlene Reingold, 47, of Medford, N.Y., were arrested late Wednesday on charges of violating a host of U.S. immigration laws and mail and wire fraud. The three had been working together for about 10 years, according to the federal indictment.

Reyes attended high school in Douglas but went to law school in Mexico and set up his practice, which specializes in adoptions, only a block away from the crossing station to Douglas in Agua Prieta, Sonora. He has dual U.S. and Mexican citizenship.

It was unclear in court papers how Reyes and the two New York women met and began the adoption ring. But Lieberman and Reingold presented themselves to prospective parents as adoption experts, using business names such as Stork International and International Adoption Consultants.


Date: 1999-05-27

John C. Ensslin
Rocky Mountain News

Parents who adopt foreign children need to know that love does not always conquer all, adoption experts say.

It takes hard work, commitment, possibly therapy and plenty of outside support to form bonds with youngsters who may have suffered abuse and neglect.

Social workers, lawyers and adoption agency directors reacted with sorrow to the arrest Friday of an Arapahoe County woman police say tried to sell her 8-year-old Russian-born daughter via the Internet.

Denise K. Thomas, 42, and her husband Peter deny the allegations leveled against her by the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Department.

The couple said they have done everything they could to care for the girl since she came to live with them in January. But they say they have been overwhelmed by behavior problems stemming from an undisclosed history of abuse.

Sheriff's investigators claim Denise Thomas tried to sell the girl to a Texas couple for $4,000.

But Thomas contends that she was only trying to find a good home for the girl and cover a portion of the $15,000 in fees the Thomases paid to adopt her.

Woman accused of trying to sell child via Internet

Date: 1999-05-26

Couple in Burleson alerted Colorado sheriff after e-mails

Mark Wrolstad
The Dallas Morning News

Child-selling charges were filed Tuesday against a Colorado woman who investigators said offered her newly adopted 8-year-old daughter to a Burleson couple via the Internet.

Officials said it could be the first prosecution for such a crime committed by computer.

The Burleson couple, whose names haven't been released, called the Arapahoe County Sheriff's Office in Littleton, Colo., on Friday after exchanging e-mails with Denise K. Thomas about payment.

The girl, named Elena, was adopted four months ago from Russia and has an emotional-attachment disorder, according to her adoptive parents. The girl's 10-year-old sister also was adopted and lives in Mississippi, authorities said.

Mrs. Thomas, 42, and her husband, Peter, 50, have said she wasn't trying to sell the child but was seeking reimbursement for some adoption expenses, which exceeded $13,000.

Investigators said the woman wanted $4,000 for the girl, plus air fare to get her to Texas, under the pretense of a private adoption.

Woman accused of trying to sell child by e-mail

Date: 1999-05-25

Associated Press

A woman was arrested on suspicion of trying to sell her 8-year-old adopted Russian daughter for $4,000 through an e-mail, authorities said Monday.

Denise K. Thomas was arrested Friday for investigation for criminal attempted trafficking in children and released, authorities said.

"What she was really trying to do was set up a private adoption to avoid the bureaucracy and regulations required around that issue. But yes, the bottom line was she was trying to sell the child," said Undersheriff Grayson Robinson.

The girl had not been abused, he said. She was placed in a foster home.

The proposed sale was uncovered Friday when sheriff's deputies were contacted by a Texas couple who said they had received an e-mail from a woman offering to sell the girl in a "private adoption."

Mrs. Thomas, 42, is married and lives with her husband and biological 14-year-old son.


Date: 1999-05-25


Ann Carnahan and Jeff Kass
Rocky Mountain News

A 42-year-old Arapahoe County woman is accused of trying to sell her 8-year-old adopted Russian daughter for $4,000 on the Internet.

"Much as you would advertise a car for sale," Arapahoe County Sheriff's Sgt. Eugene Reilly said Monday.

Denise K. Thomas, who is a stay-at-home mom, was arrested Friday and will be charged with criminal attempted trafficking in children, authorities said.

The girl, named Elena, has been placed in foster care. Thomas and her husband also have a 14-year-old biological son.

Thomas said her arrest is a mistake. Her husband said they want the child back until she can be placed in a permanent home.

"In my heart, I know I've done nothing wrong," Thomas said.

Peter Thomas, 50, defended his wife and said Elena is so emotionally detached that she almost destroyed his family. She may have been sexually abused, he said, and has been bounced from one Russian orphanage to another since she was 3.

U.S. Congress supports Bruce Harris

Date: 1999-05-22

Guatemala Hoy

The Human Rights Caucus of the Congress of the United States expressed last May 17 its concern about the development of the defamation case against Bruce Harris, Regional Director for Latin America of Casa Alianza, which was filed by the wife of a Supreme Court Magistrate in Guatemala.

In two letters dated May 17, 1999 and released to the press in Costa Rica today --one sent to Guatemala's President, Alvaro Arzú, and another to the Secretary of State of the U.S., Madeleine Albright-- the Caucus requested the Guatemalan government to do everything it can to "promote justice in the Bruce Harris case."

This international reaction adds to the recent resolution of the European Parliament, which asked member states to bring sustained pressure on the Guatemalan government to put an end to the "illegal methods of adoption [which] are still common practise in Guatemala" and "to especially investigate the case of...Bruce Harris."


Date: 1999-05-12

Post-Tribune (IN)
Author: The Associated Press

The trial of a Bristol couple accused of kidnapping an infant and abusing her until adulthood has been delayed until next year.

Former minister Joseph Combs and his wife, Evangeline Combs, are charged with kidnapping the girl from a church-run orphanage in Valparaiso 19 years ago under the pretense of adopting her.

The state charges the couple then used the girl as a family servant and did not let her attend school or leave the house by herself. Joseph Combs also is charged with repeatedly raping the girl.

The case came to light in 1997 after the girl, then known as Esther Combs, was hospitalized after a suicide attempt. Doctors discovered layered scar tissue all over her body.

Attorneys for the couple told the judge Monday they had only recently received material from prosecutors and would not be ready by the June 21 trial date.

The defense must interview 100 potential witnesses and review 28 photographs of the Combs family recently found in a box beside a Dumpster in Bristol.

Circuit Judge Jerry Beck agreed to the delay.

Time line in death of child disputed

Date: 1999-05-11

Time line in death of child disputed

By Electa Draper
Denver Post Staff Writer

May 11 - DURANGO - Sandy Evers, the Bayfield mother accused of child abuse in the death of one of her 11 children, testified Monday that she saw 6-yearold Roberta alive at about 11:30 p.m. the night of her death, part of a time line that the prosecution says makes no sense.

Sandy Evers said that she was walking around the house, putting away laundry and talking to her 20-year-old daughter, Christen, when she noticed Roberta stirring in her bed. Christen Evers also testified that she saw Roberta breathing in her sleep late the night of June 13.

Investigators in the case were never told that anyone saw Roberta alive that late; the family's stories have changed over time and they contradict each other, the prosecution argued.

Routine bed check While making a routine check of the children's bedrooms at about 1:30 a.m. June 14, Sandy Evers testified Monday, she discovered her lifeless daughter.

Child trafficking trial adjourned

Date: 1999-05-10

Associated Press Archive
Dateline: HANOI, Vietnam

A Vietnamese judge has halted the trial of 11 people charged with child trafficking and bribery in connection with foreign adoptions.

The presiding judge in An Giang province ordered further investigation into the case, an official said today. No date for a retrial has been set.

He said the defendants denied the charges, saying they only carried out adoptions on a humanitarian basis.

The defendants include former officials of the Long Xuyen nurturing center for orphans and the elderly, the provincial Justice Department, the provincial hospital and adoption brokers.

They were accused of selling 199 children for adoption over three years until the case was uncovered in late 1997. Residents of France, the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Austria and Belgium reportedly paid about $2,000 per child.

The children were adopted even though they had parents or other close relatives who had not given the required written approval, press reports have said.

Mom charged with murder

Date: 1999-04-30

An Aurora woman has been charged with first-degree murder and child abuse in the death of her 6-year-old adopted son.

Royce Elaine Clark, 54, is accused of causing the death of Hoa Nguyen, also known as Christopher Royce Shepherd, by shaking him.

The boy died April 17 at Children's Hospital, three days after he was rushed to the hospital from Clark's home in the 2000 block of South Rifle Street. Emergency crews had been called to the home on a report that the child had fallen and wasn't breathing, police said.

Police arrested Clark that night on suspicion of child abuse. She was released on $10,000 bond at the time but was ordered held without bail Wednesday when she appeared in Arapahoe County District Court to face charges.

An autopsy showed the boy died of complications from head injuries.

According to a court document, police believe Clark shook the boy violently while holding him by his shoulders April 13. The next day, the child was found passed out in the living room and was taken to the hospital.

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