Prison for Baby Smugglers / 3 sentenced in Mexican adoption fraud
Newsday (Melville, NY)
Author: Robert E. Kessler. STAFF WRITER
A federal judge sentenced two Medford women and an Arizona man to more than a year in prison yesterday on charges of illegally bringing Mexican babies into the United States, despite pleas from defense attorneys that the three were participating in "a modern-day version of the Underground Railroad" and acted no differently from the Miami relatives of Elian Gonzalez.
Arlene Lieberman, 49, of 18 Blackpine Dr., her neighbor Arlene Reingold, 48, of 24 Blackpine Dr., and Mario Reyes, 42, of Douglas, Ariz., admitted charging couples, most of them on Long Island, as much as $20,000 for each illegally smuggled child. The smuggling of as many as 23 children, some of them quite sick, avoided a possible lengthy process in which the potential parents might have had to wait weeks or months to legally adopt the children.
District Court Judge Jacob Mishler in Uniondale sentenced each of the women, who are known as "the Arlenes" in the adoption business, to the minimum under federal guidelines, 15 months in prison, and ordered them each to repay families of the children a total of $45,000. Reyes, who has a license to practice law in Mexico, was sentenced as the leader of the scheme to 30 months in prison and ordered to repay parents a total of $125,000.
"I am sorry for any suffering that was caused by me. I never meant to hurt anyone," a tearful Reingold told Mishler before sentencing. Lieberman, who had worked for years with Reingold in bringing children into the United States, expressed similar sentiments, as did Reyes.
Attorneys for the three, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to illegally smuggle and conceal the children, challenged the fairness of the sentences afterward.
"The Cuban relatives in Miami who have Elian Gonzalez are as guilty of smuggling and harboring as my client, but they won't be prosecuted because of politics," said Stephen Scaring, the attorney for Reyes.
Charles Adler, the attorney for Lieberman, said his client and her neighbor acted in the same manner as people who helped smuggle runaway slaves to freedom, and they were running "a modern-day version of the Underground Railroad." Reingold's attorney, Joel Slomsky, concurred, noting that most of the smuggled infants were the unwanted children of prostitutes and would have had a terrible life if they had not been brought to loving families in the United States.
In his sentencing memorandum, Mishler wrote that he was imposing jail terms because the defendants had defrauded parents who were usually infertile couples desperate to have children. He compared the operation of the three as the equivalent of a "lonely hearts" scheme that takes advantage of elderly widows.
Federal officials have said they are working to ensure that the children will be legally adopted and allowed to stay in the United States.
As part of the scheme, the parents received phony birth certificates and fraudulent releases by the supposed birth mothers giving their children up for adoption, according to U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch. The documents were signed by impostors, Lynch said.
1) Sketch by Andrea - Shepard Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Macht, left, and Judge Jacob Mishler confront defendants, foreground, from right, Mario Reyes, Arlene Lieberman and Arlene Reingold, and attorneys, from left, Joel Slomsky, Charles Adler and Stephen Scaring. 2) Mario Reyes 3) Newsday Photo by Alan Raia - Arlene Reingold, above, and 4) Arlene Lieberman, neighbros in Medford, leave the courthouse.