Secretive Network Salvadoran `Baby Scam' Flourishing

Date: 1986-12-05

In the United States, too, unscrupulous baby brokers have been drawn to the trade in Salvadoran children. Authorities in Massachusetts, Minnesota, California and other states have been attempting to crack down on adoption "facilitators" who charge would-be parents large amounts of money and promise them healthy babies-but who then sometimes provide no children, children who are desperately ill or children whose availability for adoption is questionable because they carry fraudulent adoption documents.

Although [Aracely Urrutia] was convicted of kidnaping in the criminal case that followed, [Ruben del Cid] and Roberto del Cid were never charged. Ruben del Cid admitted, in testimony given under oath, that he had paid Urrutia $160 for each of three children, but said he believed they had been obtained legitimately. (Salvadoran law permits lawyers to pay baby-finders for their services, as long as no payments are made to the children's parents.) Indeed, U.S. and Salvadoran investigators generally believe the Del Cid brothers did not know that Urrutia was kidnaping the children.

The new death squad also published a newspaper advertisement threatening to kill five more people in the adoption business, including one lawyer who had worked with Del Cid. That lawyer and at least one other adoption lawyer who was not named fled the country, other Salvadoran lawyers and U.S. and Salvadoran officials said.

...The INS, the IRS, the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador and the Salvadoran government have been looking into Del Cid's activities since 1982...

...The young Minnesota couple waited expectantly at the airport for their newly adopted daughter, flying to them at last from war-ravaged El Salvador

..."She didn't know where he was," said a Massachusetts official who later investigated the case. "She had delivered the boy to a couple in Massachusetts, but she had no idea where they lived. She had no records at all."  From orphanages and squalid slums,through a secretive network of Central American adoption lawyers and American "baby-brokers," a small tide of Salvadoran children is washing into the United States-about 1300 over the past six years.

The country's six-year-old war between the U.S.-backed government and leftist guerrillas, the collapse of El Salvador's economy and the disintegration of of its social structure have produced thousands of orphans and abandoned children, and thousands more whose impoverished mothers are willing to give them up.

Suzanne Champney acted as Del Cid's chief American broker from 1979 until 1983 as he delivered at least 200 children, and possibly more, to the United....

... A young Minnesota couple, Janet and David Ostlund, say they also know that Del Cid has been in the adoption business more recently than 1983

....When they applied to adopt a little girl in August of 1984, Suzanne Champney told them they would have their child in a matter of months. "They sent us her picture, and we sent them the money," she said. "It was $6500." But after months of delay, the Ostlunds still had no baby. In May of 1985-more than a year after Del Cid says he left the adoption business-Janet Ostlund complained to Champney. "She told me to talk to the lawyer," Janet Ostlund said. "She said the main lawyer's name was Roberto del Cid Aguirre. . . .

...I remember talking with him. He was the one who spoke some English." Eventually, the Ostlunds' new daughter, 1-year-old Maria, arrived on a flight from San Salvador clearly ill. The Ostlunds rushed her to the emergency room of a nearby hospital, where physicians found half a dozen medical problems including malnutrition, an abnormal heart condition, a long-running ear infection and signs of mild of mild retardation. The Ostlunds nursed Maria back to health, but a year later she died as a result of injuries received in an accidental fall. Del Cid says he has never heard of the Ostlunds or their daughter Maria. Roberto del Cid Aguirre's role in processing Salvadoran children for adoption came to light largely by mischance, in a bizarre 1983 case heard in San Salvador's criminal courts.  

Although Del Cid issued a general denial, both he and Champney refused to comment on the specific allegations against them....

 ...Even before the Urrutia case, the U.S. Embassy was interested in Roberto del Cid who was producing visa applications for four or five children a month while most Salvadoran adoption lawyers could manage only one or two....

 

 

.....But so far, authorities in El Salvador and the United States have taken little effective action against those involved. "Are people doing wrong things? Yes," a source close to the federal investigation said Thursday. "Is there enough evidence to result in a conviction? That's another question. A lot of stuff is in Central America and it's hard to get."

....The officials said the women sometimes offered cash for the babies, a practice illegal under Salvadoran law. Del Cid has said that if cash was exchanged, he did not know of it and would not have approved. U.S. diplomats in El Salvador say some babies in adoptions by Del Cid have been discovered to have false birth certificates and faulty forms registering the consent of fictional mothers, a violation of U.S. immigration law.

All but a few, she said, came through Roberto del Cid Aguirre. The state of Massachusetts sued Champney in 1984, accusing her of "unfair and deceptive acts.

Americans adopted 310 children from El Salvador in fiscal year 1985, the last year for which figures are available. One attraction is that El Salvador's ...

-Promised one Massachusetts couple a healthy baby but delivered a child so ill from neglect that she died shortly after arriving at Miami International Airport....

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