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Charity's haven for famine children destroyed by paedophile scourge

Date: 1999-07-22

It was created as a refuge for orphans who had suffered starvation, but the idyll was shattered when sex abusers infiltrated the village

Audrey Gillan

Jari Children's Village seems like an idyllic haven for the young, an oasis from the poverty that grinds Ethiopia down. It sits at the foot of Mount Ambassel in a region once so ravaged by famine and civil war that countless thousands died. Surrounded by bougainvillea and jacaranda trees, and full of children who shout "welcome" to a strange face, it is a breathtaking place.

Desperate images of starving orphans of the famine led to the founding of the village in 1974. A Swiss charity, Terre des hommes, Lausanne (Tdh), created the village in a valley given to them by the then emperor, Haile Selassie, and provided the children with a home and an education. The orphans were supposed to live as one big family. They slept in bunks in dormitory huts, ate from big trestle tables and looked up to the adults who worked and lived there, seeing them as their substitute parents.

U.N. studies international adoptions in Guatemala

Date: 1999-07-19

Associated Press Archive
Author: LAURA WIDES; Associated Press Writer

A U.N. investigator began examining the international adoption business in Guatemala on Monday, focusing on high agency fees and allegations that women are pressured to give up their babies.

Poverty, lax regulation and the country's 36-year civil war have made Guatemala the fourth-largest foreign supplier of children to U.S. adoptive parents. Only Russia, China and South Korea send more children to the United States.

U.N. special investigator Ofelia Calcetas-Santos came to Guatemala at the government's request to study allegations that children are being sold to adoptive parents. She met Monday with government representatives and children's advocates.

In recent years, local child advocacy groups have complained of lawyers who force or trick mothers into giving up their children, and of large amounts of money paid by adoptive parents.

Most of the groups support international adoptions but say the government should better regulate the process.

Two women plead guilty in Mexican baby smuggling case

Date: 1999-07-16

Associated Press Archive
Author: TOM HAYS; Associated Press Writer
Dateline: NEW YORK

Two women have admitted to taking part in an illegal adoption ring in which 17 Mexican babies were smuggled across the border and placed in American homes for $20,000 or more.

Arlene Reingold and Arlene Lieberman pleaded guilty to breaking immigration laws. Conspiracy charges were dropped in exchange for their pleas.

The two neighbors in the Long Island community of Medford face up to two years, three months in prison. Each was ordered to pay $43,500 restitution to the American families.

The women are free on bail until their sentencing; no date was set. Both refused to comment as they left federal court.

The two came to the attention of authorities in 1990, when the state Department of Social Services received complaints that they were arranging adoptions without a license.

The women were arrested in May with a third defendant, Mario Reyes, 40, a Douglas, Ariz., lawyer with an office in a Mexican border town.


Date: 1999-07-16

New York Daily News (NY)

Two Long Island women known in adoption circles as the two Arlenes pleaded guilty yesterday to smuggling Mexican children into the United States and selling them to desperate prospective parents.

The women, who declined to comment about the case, admitted bringing Mexican children some of them sick, and all illegal aliens from Arizona to New York starting in 1995 until they were arrested in May.

Arlene Reingold, 46, and Arlene Lieberman, 48, neighbors from Medford, L.I., face up to 27 months each in prison and $250,000 in fines. Each agreed to pay $43,500 in restitution to be shared by the 17 families they fleeced.

"I brought them through LaGuardia or Kennedy Airport and gave them to the adoptive parents, where they would remain," each woman told Brooklyn Federal Magistrate Judge John Caden in prepared statements they read in court.

Sales of Guatemala Babies

Date: 1999-07-15

A United Nations envoy will visit Guatemala next week to investigate allegations of ''unscrupulous tactics'' in the sale of children to adoptive parents in the United States, Canada, France and Britain, the United Nations said today.

The envoy, Ofelia Calcetas-Santos, will look into the adoption trade in Guatemalan children during her trip from Monday to July 30, and then make recommendations to the Guatemalan Government.

A statement issued by the United Nations said concern had been raised by ''allegations of unscrupulous tactics used during the adoption process, as well as the large amounts of money paid by potential adoptive parents.''

Former minister accused of kidnapping, rape back in jail

Date: 1999-07-14

Oak Ridger, The (TN)

BLOUNTVILLE (AP) -- A former Bristol minister accused of kidnapping, abuse and rape is back in jail.

Joseph Combs had been released in May after posting $150,000 bail, but he was arrested and jailed again Monday after a violation of a bond agreement, according to court records.

Workers at Central Bail Bonds refused to comment Wednesday. The company had posted $26,300 and the rest was raised through liens against friends' property.

Combs and his wife Evangeline are accused of taking a 4-month-old girl from an Indiana children's home 20 years ago under the pretense of adopting her. But they never completed the process and made the girl the family "slave," authorities say. Joseph Combs also is accused of raping her for years.

The allegations came to light in 1997 after the girl was hospitalized for a suicide attempt, and doctors found scar tissue over her body. The girl has since changed her name and lives in another state.

The Combses' trial has been set for early next year. Mrs. Combs was released in March after posting $100,000 bail, which was put up in full by Central Bail Bonds.

Suspected baby-smuggling lawyer out on $1 million bond in N.Y.C.

Date: 1999-07-03

The Arizona Daily Star
Author: Tim Steller

Mario Reyes Burgue�o, the Douglas lawyer accused of baby trafficking, was released from custody in New York yesterday after posting a $1 million bond.

Reyes' defense put together seven properties, most of them in Arizona, as security for the bond, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Macht. The properties belong to friends and family members.

During the hearing in New York City, Macht opposed releasing Reyes on the grounds that he has undisclosed assets elsewhere.

A woman who answered the telephone at his house in Douglas said she expected Reyes home tomorrow.

Reyes, 41, has been in custody since he was arrested May 25 at his Douglas house. He faces charges of conspiring to illegally bring 17 babies across the border from Mexico, mail fraud and wire fraud.

Two women from Long Island, N.Y. - Arlene Reingold and Arlene Lieberman - also were arrested May 25 on the same charges. The trio allegedly charged women up to $22,000 apiece for babies brought into the United States illegally.


Date: 1999-06-19

Watertown Daily Times (NY)
Author: Associated Press
Dateline: NEW YORK

An Arizona man pleaded innocent Friday in Brooklyn federal court to charges he smuggled Mexican children into the United States for adoption.

U.S. Magistrate Joan Azrack ordered Mario Manuel Reyes Burgueno, 41, held until a bail hearing on June 28. Reyes, of Douglas, Ariz., was brought to Brooklyn this week following his arrest on charges of alien smuggling, mail fraud and wire fraud.

"He will be looking forward to the opportunity to clear his good name, " his attorney, Stephen Scarling, said outside court.

Federal prosecutors allege Reyes - who practiced law until November in Agua Prieta, Mexico, across the border from his home - and two Long Island women ran an adoption ring that illegally placed 17 Mexican children in American homes for up to $22,000 per child.

Reyes allegedly used Mexican women with legal border-crossing documents to pose as mothers to bring babies into Arizona. A secretary in Reyes's law firm was arrested in October by Mexican authorities on charges of trafficking in children.


Date: 1999-06-09

Miami Herald, The (FL)
Author: KAREN TESTA, Associated Press
Dateline: BOCA RATON

For nearly 20 years, Michael Chalek was tormented with unfulfilled questions of his birth, his adoption and his true parents.

Now, at age 47, he's condemned to know the answers.

Chalek discovered he'd been sold for $200 by a baby broker after his young mother was coerced into giving him up under an assumed name, state records unsealed recently show. Chalek claims that was the beginning of a childhood marked by sexual and verbal abuse.

His adoptive parents and the baby broker cannot defend themselves - they are all dead. But Chalek hopes a lawsuit filed this week in Alachua County will right some of the wrongs: he's asking to annul his 1953 adoption and get a new birth certificate with his true mother's name.

``By me doing that, it's making a statement that ought to be made,'' said Chalek, who moved a few months ago from Boca Raton to Estes, Colo. ``I think the individuals involved in this ought to be exposed.''

That has been Chalek's lifelong quest. He has been aided by investigators, including Virginia Snyder.

Douglas lawyer denied bond in baby smuggling

Date: 1999-06-04

The Arizona Daily Star
Author: Rhonda Bodfield Sander

A Douglas attorney accused of smuggling babies across the border will not be able to post bond and get out of jail, a federal magistrate ruled yesterday.

Magistrate Judge Nancy Fiora determined there was a serious risk that Mario Burgue�o Reyes would not appear for trial. He is charged with smuggling 17 undocumented Mexican children into the United States to New York families for as much as $22,000 each.

Reyes, an attorney who holds dual citizenship and practices in Mexico but lives in Douglas, also faces similar criminal charges in Mexico.

Fiora noted Reyes has strong family and economic ties in Mexico and is struggling financially after declaring bankruptcy in 1998. His $200,000 residence, a liquor store and a gas station in Douglas are all included in that case.

She also found the surety he offered - $50,000 equity from the $125,000 home of his parents - is not enough to ensure he'll appear at court proceedings.

Parents are charged in child-neglect case

Date: 1999-06-03

Adopted 12-year-old girl and other children endured unusual punishments, officer says.

An Army financial specialist and his wife, who police say locked their 12-year-old daughter in a feces-strewn basement, were charged this week with battery and felony child neglect.

Christopher Slatten, 33, a student at the Indiana University School of Law in addition to his Army duties, remains free on $10,000 bond. He was arrested last week by Lawrence police.

Slatten and his 28-year-old wife, Elizabeth Slatten, adopted the girl from a Russian orphanage several years ago, Detective Sgt. James R. Fouch of the Lawrence Police Department said.

The girl had been living with her parents in the 7900 block of East 46th Street along with several other children who were in the process of being adopted, Fouch said. They were removed by Child Protective Services workers and placed in foster care in February.

"It was a time-consuming process," Fouch said of the investigation. "These kind of cases always take a long time."

In Mexico, Children, and Promises, Unkept

Date: 1999-06-02

When Martina Toscano Quiroz gave three of her seven children up for adoption, her main goal, she said, was to give them a chance for a better life.

She is a single mother who earns less than $40 a week as a cleaning woman in this dusty town on the Arizona-Mexico border. Her home is a fly-infested shack with dirt floors and walls patched together from scraps of wood.

But, she acknowledged, her decisions were not entirely noble. The lawyer who took her children to live with middle-class families in New York made promises so enormous, she said, that it was as if he had offered her the stars.

''He told me he would build me two rooms with new tin for the roof and strong brick walls,'' she said. ''And he told me he would build me a bathroom with a toilet and a faucet.''

Ms. Toscano, 30, never got her new house. She said the lawyer, Mario Manuel Reyes Burgueno, took her daughters -- ages 8, 4 and 2 -- and then told her he could only give her a few hundred pesos for food.

Accused baby seller meant well, lawyer says

Date: 1999-06-02

The Arizona Daily Star
Author: Tim Steller

Good intentions motivated a Douglas man accused of selling Mexican babies to American families, his lawyer argued yesterday.

In law school at the University of Guadalajara in Mexico, Mario Reyes Burgue�o wrote a thesis on adoption as a remedy for abortion.

But financial motivations also could have come into play.

Reyes operated a gas station, a liquor store and a shoe store in Douglas, which all failed, acquaintances said. Reyes, 41, and his wife, Yolanda, filed for bankruptcy in May of last year.

Among the listed creditors is Elise S. Ritter of Stony Brook, N.Y. She wrote that she wired Reyes $20,000 to a Norwest Bank account in Douglas on Dec. 1, 1997, expecting to obtain a child in return.

When she didn't have the child by February last year, Ritter phoned Reyes, she said in a court document. Reyes told her he no longer had the money.

Ritter accused him of fraud and embezzlement in a court filing. But the two sides came to an agreement in March that Reyes would pay Ritter back $21,000, plus 9 percent interest over 36 months.


Date: 1999-06-02

Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ)
Author: Graciela Sevilla and Kathleen Ingley, The Arizona Republic
Dateline: TUCSON

Mario Reyes, accused of leading an illegal adoption ring that smuggled 17 Mexican babies to couples in New York, was ordered Tuesday to face charges in a federal court in Brooklyn.

Reyes was flanked by three rows of sobbing relatives and friends as U.S. Magistrate Nancy Fiora ordered him transferred from Arizona to New York. Fiora postponed a decision on bail for Reyes, who made his first public appearance since his arrest at his Douglas home last week.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Yarbrough argued against granting Reyes bail because his close ties to Mexico make him a flight risk.

But Reyes' attorney, Ivan Abrams, said Mexico would be the last place Reyes would run because the Mexican federal attorney's office has issued a warrant for Reyes's arrest on charges connected with the adoption operation.


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."

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