THREE SENTENCED IN MEXICAN BABY SMUGGLING CASE
The Record (New Jersey)
ARIZ. ATTORNEY, LONG ISLAND WOMEN CLAIM THEY WERE HELPING INFANTS
Author: FRANK ELTMAN, The Associated Press; Wire services
Dateline: UNIONDALE, N.Y.
An Arizona attorney and two Long Island women were sentenced to federal prison Monday after admitting they schemed to smuggle Mexican children into the United States, where prospective parents paid as much as $20,000 for what they thought were legal adoptions.
"I realize I contributed to the pain and suffering of the people in this case," said Arlene Lieberman of Medford, before being sentenced to 15 months. "I never meant to hurt anyone. . . . I am truly sorry."
Lieberman and Arlene Reingold, who also was sentenced to 15 months, were ordered to each pay $43,500 in restitution.
"I can only pray for forgiveness," said Reingold, also of Medford. She said she thought she was acting in good faith to bring needy children together with prospective parents who were desperate to adopt.
As his wife wept quietly and recited the rosary in the back of the courtroom, attorney Mario Reyes of Douglas, Ariz., was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Jacob Mishler to 30 months of prison time and told to pay $125,000 in restitution.
All three had previously pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges.
Reyes, who had an office in a Mexican border town called Agua Prieta, had arranged for at least 17 Mexican babies to be illegally brought into the United States through Arizona over the past several years. In some instances, it was alleged in an indictment, Reyes made false representations to prospective adoptive parents about the health of the babies, some of whom turned out to have serious medical problems.
According to the criminal complaint, Lieberman and Reingold were local consultants who used various named adoption businesses on Long Island to steer prospective parents to Reyes.
The adoptive parents, many of whom lived on Long Island, were led to believe that their babies had legally entered the United States. A spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service said early in the case that the agency doesn't intend to deport the children.
Barbara Austin, who adopted one of the children, told the judge that "what we've had to endure was never expected." She said that since the arrests of Reyes, Reingold, and Lieberman, she has worried about the effect it may have on her now 3-year-old daughter. "Everyone has suffered. . . . It's never going to leave me."
Reyes apologized "if I have offended anyone," but went on to maintain that he believed he was acting as a humanitarian for taking the children away from lives of poverty in Mexico and placing them with well-to-do American families. He also said his strong antiabortion philosophy was part of his motivation.
"I saved lives," he told the judge. "These children were going to be aborted . . . I firmly believe I did not damage or hurt anyone."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Macht reserved most of his criticism for Reyes.
"He has never accounted for, in any meaningful way, that he lied to the adoptive parents," Macht said. "I find it shocking and disturbing that he continues to maintain that nobody was harmed."
All three were permitted to remain free until their prison terms start on June 19. Mishler said he would recommend that Reyes be permitted to serve his term in a federal facility somewhere near his home in Arizona.