'The two Arlenes': 1 family's pain

Date: 2001-04-15

The Dallas Morning News
Author: Los Angeles Times

Donna Brownsey, a lobbyist in Sacramento, Calif., for the Academy of California Adoption Lawyers, says the group is split on the issue of licensing adoption facilitators, pointing out the difficulty of legislating "an amorphous service, quasi-social work," and of separating the well-intentioned from the baby sellers.

The case of "the two Arlenes" falls into the latter category. David Kruchkow and his wife, Sara, a childless Bayside, N.Y., couple, were among the New York-area families victimized in 1999 in an illegal Mexican baby smuggling scheme carried out by Long Island facilitators Arlene Lieberman and Arlene Reingold, in cahoots with a lawyer, Mario Reyes Burgueno. All were convicted and given prison terms for their roles in the scheme.

Prosecutors say that between 1995 and 1999 the trio smuggled at least 17 babies across the border from Mexico to deliver to unwitting adoptive parents who were told the children were legitimately in the United States. The children were not kidnapped but were relinquished by mothers to whom Mr. Reyes made promises, some never kept, such as a new house with a bathroom.

Mr. Reyes assured the adoptive parents - who had paid up to $22,000 plus travel and translation costs - that the children's paperwork was in order, when in fact they had fake birth certificates, adoption consent forms obtained by bribing Mexican officials and no visas or passports. Some had been brought across the border in Arizona with women posing as their mothers.

Meanwhile, the "two Arlenes," who were working with a Wisconsin adoption agency, had been seeking out clients at a local mall, posing as adoption consultants and adoptive mothers who had been burned by the system and didn't want to see others get hurt. Later, it was learned that they had evaded the law on several occasions, simply by changing the name of their operation.

The Kruchkows went to Juarez, Mexico, to pick up their daughter. David Kruchkow recalls, "Mario handed her to us [with a packet of documents] and said, 'Here's everything you need.' " But they learned the documents were bogus, and they could not get the child a passport to bring her across the border.

Earlier, the same facilitators had promised the Kruchkows two girls who never arrived, one of whom, they learned, "was already in the United States with another family." In all, Mr. Kruchkow estimates he and his wife were out $36,000.

But their story had a happy ending. In January 1998, 2 years after the ill-fated Juarez trip, they brought home the child, now 5, and her adoption has been finalized.

Mr. Kruchkow, who sells cars, says adoptive parents have "less protection than you get buying a used car.''

"The industry is ripe for the unscrupulous, unethical, criminal profiteers. I don't think any party should be hurt when they're just trying to provide a home and a family for a child who needs one."

Distributed by Los Angeles Times/Washington Post News Service.


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