Baby adoptions draw charges of visa fraud

Date: 2004-01-07

A Hanalei resident has been running an agency for adopting Cambodian children

A nthony Sommer

LIHUE >> Hanalei resident Lauren Galindo was scheduled to surrender to federal authorities in Seattle today on charges of visa fraud and conspiracy to commit visa fraud involving Cambodian children whose mothers allegedly had sold them to Galindo.

The adoptive parents for whom Galindo worked claimed in the visa applications that the children had no living relatives. In many cases, the adoptive parents had actually met with the birth mothers, the federal indictment alleges.

Galindo is considered the largest and most successful operator of several adoption agencies that provide Cambodian children to adoptive parents.

She has been operating her adoption agency since at least 1990 and has provided hundreds of children to adoptive parents.

"When people ask me what I do, I don't say adoptions," she said in a lengthy interview with the English language newspaper The Cambodia Daily. "I say humanitarian work."

"I didn't come here to steal children of the nation," she said in the interview. "I came here to do what I could to help."

But while she has been given awards by the Cambodian government, she has been criticized by advocacy groups in Cambodia for buying babies for as little as $100 and selling them to American couples.

Her typical fee to the adoptive parents is about $9,000, she said in the Cambodian newspaper interview.

Galindo, 52, lives in a house on Wecke Road, which runs along the beach in Hanalei, and is one of the most expensive and exclusive neighborhoods in Hawaii. A check of county tax records showed she does not own the house, however. The tax bills go to a Boulder, Colo., attorney.

Her most famous customers were actress Angelina Jolie who, with ex-husband Billy Bob Thornton, used her agency to adopt a Cambodian boy.

Less famous are hundreds of couples on Kauai and throughout Hawaii who adopted children through Galindo, who was raised in Hawaii.

Galindo said when the United States placed a ban on issuing visas to Cambodian children two years ago, 114 of her customers "were left in the lurch."

Galindo's sister, Lynn Devin, who operated their Seattle office, Seattle International Adoptions Inc., already has pleaded guilty to falsifying documents in order to obtain visas for Cambodian children. She will be sentenced March 15.

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