Guatemala Adoption Lawyers Charged

Date: 
2008-03-24

GUATEMALA CITY (AP) — Two Guatemalan lawyers retained by an adoption agency that has sent scores of children to the U.S. have been charged with fraud and human trafficking, their attorneys said on Monday.

Vilma Zamora and Sandra Leonardo, lawyers for Casa Quivira, an adoption agency under investigation for using fraudulent documents, were notified of a judge's charges against them Monday, their attorneys told The Associated Press.

Milton Miranda, Leonardo's lawyer, said they would appeal.

"The judge reached that conclusion because he was pressured by investigators," said Zamora's lawyer, Estuardo Castellanos. "We know the prosecutor met with the judge every day and that's against the law."

Prosecutor Jaime Tecu didn't return calls seeking comment.

The probe of Casa Quivira — where 46 children in the process of being adopted by U.S. families were seized in a government raid last August — turned up a slew of irregularities, including at least five cases in which birth mothers were allegedly given false identities to avoid having to seek permission from family members and a judge to give up their babies.

Eighteen other mothers could not be found under the identities that case files provided, prosecutors said.

Prosecutors describe their probe of Casa Quivira, considered Guatemala's best adoption agency, as their first serious attempt to investigate a $100 million industry that has made tiny Guatemala the largest source of adopted U.S. babies after China.

Some 29,400 Guatemalan children have been delivered to U.S. homes since 1990, so many that one of every 100 Guatemalan babies born each year has been growing up in an American home.

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