Adoption nightmare continues; Galindo convicted, but heartbreak lives on

Date: 2004-07-02

Tom Finnegan
The Garden Island

Editor's note: This is the second of two parts of a story concerning a civil lawsuit filed by Kalaheo resident Summer Harrison against Hanalei resident Lauryn Galindo and others. Harrison alleges that she was not told of the numerous defects in the baby girl she adopted.

Hanalei resident Lauryn Galindo, 52, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit visa fraud, as well as conspiracy to commit money laundering, and "structuring," in federal court in Seattle. She will be sentenced in September.

But the pain she caused some of those adoptive parents she supplied babies to, and some of her former associates, lives on.

Galindo's indictment, which names Galindo's sister Lynn Devin, 50, and their Seattle International Adoptions, details two adoptions where an ill baby was swapped for a healthy one without changing the identity of the baby on visa forms.

Kalaheo resident Summer Harrison, also a Galindo client, has filed suit in First Circuit Court against Galindo and numerous others, for fraud after the adoption which, Harrison claims, went terribly wrong.

Harrison said that Galindo and others named in the civil suit represented that her now 4-year-old daughter was premature, which she was, while not telling her that the youngster was also suffering from serious prenatal injuries that left her mentally and developmentally challenged.

Galindo, in an interview Wednesday, said that Harrison was well aware of the problems Hannah developed, and took her anyway.

In the phone interview, Galindo said, on the advice of her attorneys, she would not comment on her recent guilty plea.

In a separate phone interview form Seattle, one of her staunchest supporters did comment.

Deborah Porter, a former school psychologist, became a customer of Galindo's, and then went to work for SIA. She also ran one of the largest Web sites dedicated to Cambodian adoptions, and traveled to Cambodia on humanitarian missions with Galindo.

She says that to understand Galindo's actions, one must understand the culture of Cambodia.

"It's improbable to know the truth," she said. "Cambodians will tell you what you want to hear." Misleading stories or downright untrue information is the norm, rather than an exception, she said.

Many children in orphanages have some sort of family, and in many cases if one parent is gone and the other is poor, a child qualifies as an orphan.

A child adopted by American parents would be stopped and called "lucky baby," Porter added.

"You find destitute Cambodian mothers with nine children who have seen at least one of their kids die. It's easy to see why they want their kids adopted," Porter said.

Porter's adopted child, it turned out, had two siblings. Galindo actually found out that her first daughter had a sister in the same orphanage. So she adopted both of them, and later added a younger biological brother to the family.

She said she couldn't even find out how old her kids were.

On a later trip, she tracked down her kids' biological grandmother. And all she could find out was the year they were born. When they were brought to the orphanage, their ages were changed to make it easier for them to be adopted.

The problem, she said, was it got to a point where people didn't care where the kids were coming from.

"Clearly people were coming to do business," said Porter. "Lynn (Devin) did it on the goodness of her heart.

"That's where it went wrong — (people wanted) healthy infant girls quick," she said.

Meanwhile, Galindo, who had been getting kids out of Cambodia for a dozen years or more, saw an adoption market explode from 40 or 50 kids a year in the early-1990s to 100 a month by the time Cambodian adoptions to the United States were halted in 2001, Porter said.

The U.S. leaders "could've initiated reform. They could've investigated. But they didn't," Porter added.

They just shut the doors, leaving sick kids stuck without treatment, waiting to go to the United States, dying, maimed from curable diseases, she said. Her son's adoption was held up for a year and a half as investigators looked at every single case. He was healthy. She said she knows parents who weren't so lucky.

"It was really inhumane throughout," Porter continued. "The U.S. government then painted everybody with a broad brush. The INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service) couldn't tell the difference between corrupt adoption" and people trying to help.

"They went after Lauryn because she was doing it the longest. And they went after Lynn to get to Lauryn," she added. "Lynn's a soccer mom.

"If you were in the business of helping the true orphans of Cambodia, the work was much harder," she continued. "It was blatantly obvious who was corrupt or not."

Judith Mosely, now living in Saipan after adopting one child through Galindo, agrees with Porter, but doesn't let Galindo or Devin off the hook.

Mosely, whose story was published in People magazine in January, said in a phone interview that while she agrees all overseas adoptions have run amok and that the government may have made Galindo a scapegoat, Galindo is still living in a three-bedroom house in Hanalei and driving a nice car.

Galindo's 2000 Jaguar is registered to a Samoan company, Lakshmi, Ltd., of which, according to court documents, Galindo is the sole owner.

Lakshmi is the Hindu goddess of wealth.

Mosely, the mother of seven, two biological and five adopted from different countries, said her daughter, adopted through Galindo, was taken from her birth family. A precocious 6-year-old, her daughter told the story of a full family, and she cried for them after leaving the country.

"Children's histories were just swapped for one another. It was just sloppy and greedy, and it could've been done right," she said. "It's your blueprint of your life. You have a right to know where your starting block was.

"The fact is it was callous for documents to say �unknown,'" she continued. "It doesn't matter if they had a better life in the U.S. Our money doesn't entitle us to the children of the poor. They can still be loved."

Mosely and Harrison both said they paid around $11,000 for their children, giving Galindo directly $3,500 in new, clean, $100 bills, as a "orphan donation fee." Mosely says she has a receipt.

Meanwhile, the orphanages the two women described are squalid, with half formula given to infants because full formula was too expensive.

"The children were laying on baskets on the floor," Harrison said.

"Even put half of what Galindo pocketed, and put them into orphanages," it would be a model system for other countries, said Mosely.

"I believe one pays for their crimes," said Mosely. "Somebody said (online that Galindo's detractors) are gleeful.

"There's no glee when an 8-year-old is crying her eyes out every night because she missed her family.

"Had she been a baby, she never would've known she had a whole (biological) family."

Harrison asked that other families who adopted Cambodian children with erroneous medical records contact her at summer@aloha.net.

Tom Finnegan, staff writer, may be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or mailto:tfinnegan@pulitzer.net.

0

Pound Pup Legacy