When You Wish Upon A Star: An Adoption Story
Copyright 2001, 2002, by David N. Kruchkow
"Knowing and in Reckless Disregard of the Fact."
The following excerpts are from public documents that set the stage for this story. These excerpts are mostly self-explanatory. Karen Pace, the INS special investigator in charge of gathering the evidence for this case, states that the defendants in this case are Mario Reyes, Arlene Lieberman and Arlene Reingold, "together with others." Some of these others are named, but some remain unnamed. My wife, Sara, and myself may be viewed by some as potential "others" since we are allegedly the only ones in this case who went to Mexico and brought our daughter into the US without legal status. The key phrase here is "knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact." While we were "knowing" in the sense that we brought her into the US without legal status, we definitely were not in "reckless disregard of the fact" of anything as we made every reasonable effort to follow the applicable laws and procedures as both the so-called adoption professionals we employed and Mrs. Troupe of the INS had explained them. It was only when our efforts to follow procedures were thwarted and we were faced with the responsibility of caring for a sick child that we followed the course outlined in this story. Once we had our daughter home and to a doctor, then we made every effort to find a way to legally correct her status and bring the adoption criminals to justice.
Could this means the "others" must include Melinda Randa and Jill Gerlach of Adoption Choice in Wisconsin? Ever since we first spoke with Judith Kramer, Christina Leonard and Linda Moody of the New York State Attorney General's office in May of 1998, I have tried to find out which other families were victims of Ms. Randa and Ms. Gerlach, so that we could seek justice against them together. Until Mario Reyes pleaded guilty on Friday, October 1, 1999, the only answer offered me was that the investigation was ongoing. At the end of 1999, it became apparent that Adoption Choice would not be prosecuted. As the reader will learn, whether Adoption Choice was a victim of the Arlenes and Mario Reyes, as claimed, or was a willing co-conspirator became irrelevant. The fact remains that they lied to us and withheld information from us every step of the way. The fact remains that they lied about and covered up the termination of their relationship with the Arlenes. The fact remains that they kept their fee. The fact remains that Melinda Randa was the one who presented us with the availability of the child we now call our daughter. The fact remains that they abandoned us with a sick child and incomplete documentation in Mexico. These facts are damning if not incriminating. It most certainly appears to me that Adoption Choice was "knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact." I know of one other Long Island family involved in this case, the Ritter family, which used Adoption Choice. Elyse Ritter has told me that it was Adoption Choice who referred her to the Arlenes. The reader will be presented with all the facts and be able to draw his or her own conclusion.
"UPON INFORMATION AND BELIEF."
"May 26, 1999"
"EASTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK, SS (sworn statement):"
"KAREN PACE, being duly sworn, deposes and says that she is a Special Agent with the Immigration and Naturalization service ("INS"), duly appointed according to law and acting as such."
"Upon information and belief, in or about and between 1990 and May 1999, those dates being approximate and inclusive, within the Eastern District of New York and elsewhere, the defendants MARIO REYES, ARLENE LIEBERMAN and ARLENE REINGOLD, together with others, did knowingly and intentionally conspire to (a) encourage and induce aliens to come to, enter and reside in the United States, knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact that such coming to, entry or residence is or will be in violation of the law; (b) transport aliens within the United States, knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact that the aliens had come to, entered and remained in the United States in violation of law, in furtherance of such violation of law; and (c) conceal, harbor and shield from detection aliens, knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact that the aliens had come to, entered and resided in the United States in violation of law.
(Title 8, United States Code, Section 1324 (a) (1))."
"Upon information and belief, in or about and between 1990 and may 1999, those dates being approximate and inclusive, within the Eastern District of New York and elsewhere, the defendants MARIO REYES, ARLENE LIEBERMAN AND ARLENE REINGOLD, together with others, did knowingly and intentionally conspire (a) to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud and to obtain money by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises and, for the purpose of executing said scheme and artifice, place in any post office matters and things to be delivered by the Postal Service and cause matters and things to be delivered by mail and private and commercial interstate carriers according to the direction thereon, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1341; and (b) to devise a scheme and artifice to defraud and to obtain money by fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises and, for the purpose of executing said scheme and artifice, transmit and cause to be transmitted signs, signals and sounds by means of wire communication in interstate and foreign commerce, in violation of Title 18, United states Code, Section 1343.
(Title 18, United States Code, Section 371)"
This is how the INS laid out their case against the above named defendants for probable cause for their arrests and obtaining search warrants. The two following paragraphs described the probable cause for seizure of the three computers at the homes of the two Arlenes as evidence and instumentalities in the crimes these people committed. Then Karen Pace's deposition continued:
"As set forth below, the defendants organized an adoption ring for pecuniary gain that had as its principal purpose the placement of Mexican infants who had been illegally smuggled into the United States into the homes of unsuspecting adoptive parents within the Eastern District of New York. As part of this scheme, the defendants made false assurances to the adoptive parents about the legality of the adoption and immigration procedures and the health of the children and exacted large payments from the adoptive parents for the adoptions. Once the children were delivered to the adoptive parents - often within a matter of days from when the parents first agreed to adopt - the parents came to realize that the children had no immigration status in the United States and, in some cases, had serious, unanticipated health and other problems."
In the next section of her deposition, entitled "I. Your Deponent's Qualifications and Sources of Information," Karen Pace went on to give just that. Next we had:
"II. The Roles of the Defendants"
"4. The defendant MARIO REYES (hereafter "REYES") is a lawyer licensed to practice law in Mexico, with dual Mexican and United States citizenship. REYES currently lives in Douglas, Arizona and, during the period of the conspiracies charged in this affidavit, maintained a law office in a Mexican border town named Agua Prieta, which abuts Douglas, Arizona. For years, REYES's law practice has been devoted to arranging U.S. adoptions of Mexican children. According to information obtained from Mexican authorities or otherwise learned during the course of Your Deponent's investigation, REYES is responsible for arranging at least 17 such adoptions within the past several years alone. All of these children are illegally present in the United States and much of the paperwork that REYES submitted in connection with the Mexican adoption proceedings is fraudulent."
"5. Since in or about 1990, the defendants ARLENE LIEBERMAN (hereafter "LIBERMAN") and ARLENE REINGOLD (hereafter "REINGOLD") have run an adoption business in Long Island under several different names, including Stork International, Adoption Choice, Inc. and International Adoption Consultants. LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD have assisted in over 500 international adoptions. LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD for years have lived in neighboring homes on Blackpine Drive in Medford, Long Island. Although barred by New York State from having anything to do with placing children for adoption, LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD have peddled REYES's services to prospective adoptive parents within the Long Island area and have directly participated in placing illegal-alien children into Long Island households. In our interviews, many of the parents referred to LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD simply as "the Arlenes," and occasionally I follow that convention in this Affidavit, especially when the parents could not distinguish whether LIEBERMAN or REINGOLD made a certain statement."
Section III of Ms. Pace's deposition detailed the laws and procedures regarding foreign adoptions. Then she continued as follows:
"IV. The Many Adoption Businesses of LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD"
"10. The information contained in this section is based on a review of various documents on file with the New York State Department of Social Services ("the Department"), or some other state agency, unless otherwise indicated. The Department regulates adoption agencies, which must be licensed by the State to place children for adoption, as well as any entity seeking to provide adoption-related services within New York State."
"11. In 1990, Stork International was incorporated as a not-for-profit New York corporation with the purpose of acting as an international adoption information and referral agency (not a licensed adoption agency). Documents on file with the Department indicate that LIEBERMAN was Stork's Vice-President and REINGOLD was Stork's Secretary."
"12. Following repeated complaints to the Department concerning Stork International, including complaints that Stork was acting as an adoption agency (rather than just a referral agency) and was making various fraudulent representations, the Department in 1993 ordered Stork International to cease providing any and all adoption-related services."
"13. Documents on file with the Department indicate that in September 1992, LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD resigned as officers of Stork International, and, in October of 1992, LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD incorporated a new not-for-profit New York corporation under the name "Adoption Choice, Inc." The stated purpose for which Adoption Choice was formed was to acquaint parents with the rules concerning international adoptions. Adoption Choice was not licensed as an agency authorized to place children."
"14. In June 1993, the Department sent a letter to LEIBERMAN (sic) emphasizing that it was illegal for Adoption Choice "in any way [to hold] yourself out as an entity which can arrange the placement of children for adoption." In December 1993, LIEBERMAN forwarded a letter to the Department in which LIEBERMAN acknowledged the Department's "opinion that referring clients to specific attorneys and acting as a 'liason' (sic) between attorney and client would be illegal as we are not set up as a child placing (sic) agency."
"15. In or about 1994, LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD applied to the Department for a license for Adoption Choice to act as an adoption agency. The Department denied the application in January 1995. The Department cited as the principal reason for the denial that LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD had ignored the Department's admonitions not to hold themselves out as able to arrange the placement of children for adoption. The evidence relied on by the Department included Adoption Choice newspaper advertisements offering children for adoption, and a tape-recorded meeting with prospective parents at which REINGOLD and LIEBERMAN, on behalf of Adoption Choice, and representatives of Stork International met with prospective adoptive parents and said they were able to locate children for adoption through attorney contacts in various countries."
"16. After several failed attempts to reverse the Department's denial of a license to Adoption Choice, LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD joined in a proposal to the Department in or about January 1996 under which Adoption Choice would dissolve and LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD would form a new organization with the sole purpose of providing support services to a Wisconsin adoption agency named Adoption Choice of Wisconsin, Inc. Pursuant to this arrangement, in February 1996, LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD incorporated a not-for-profit New York corporation named "International Adoption Consultants" (hereafter "IAC"). The Department was provided with a copy of an executed agreement between IAC and the Wisconsin agency, which was intended to delineate the services that IAC would be allowed to perform. (A January, 24, 1996 letter to the Department from LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD assures the Department that they will adhere to the terms set forth in the agreement between IAC and the Wisconsin agency). The agreement, dated February 1, 1996 and bearing signatures in the names of LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD, states that the Wisconsin agency will act as the child placement agency, and IAC will not "place out children for adoption or charge a placement fee." The agreement further states that IAC will only provide information about adoption and immigration procedures and assist in the completion of required documentation, and will not "[h]old itself out as an entity which can arrange the placement of children for the purpose of adoption," "[i]indicate to prospective parents that they can assist them in locating a child for the purpose of adoption," or "[c]ommunicate directly with attorneys or agencies in a foreign country on behalf of adoptive parents."
"17. Although in 1996 LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD represented to the Department that they would have nothing to do with placing children for adoption, the information contained in this Affidavit makes clear that LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD continued thereafter to place children, in some cases explicitly cutting out the Wisconsin agency. Several parents have explained that they initiated the process to adopt a foreign child through LIEBERMAN, REINGOLD and the Wisconsin agency; however, once the process was underway, LIEBERMAN and/or REINGOLD told the parents that a Mexican child was available through a Mexican attorney (REYES), and that the Mexican adoption would have nothing to do with the Wisconsin agency. In some cases, LIEBERMAN told the prospective parents that they should make up an excuse to get their money back from the Wisconsin agency and that they should not tell the Wisconsin agency about the Mexican adoption. LIEBERMAN, REINGOLD and REYES then arranged for a Mexican child to be placed in these parents' homes."
"18. A letter on file with the Department indicates that in July 1997, LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD stopped working with the Wisconsin agency, but, as discussed below, LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD continued to place children for adoption through REYES after July 1997."
"19. In sum, using an array of corporate entities and job descriptions, and although barred by the State from placing children or communicating with foreign attorneys regarding adoptions, LIEBERMAN and REINGOLD continued throughout the 1990s to deal directly with a Mexican attorney (REYES) and to escort Mexican infants to the adoptive parents in New York, all the while assuring parents that everything they and REYES were doing was perfectly legal."
"20. In the remainder of this Affidavit, I discuss in detail the nature of the relationship between the adoptive parents, LIEBERMAN, REINGOLD and REYES - and how together the defendants committed a series of violations of federal law."
Thank you Agent Pace, but it is time to tell our story in our words. I want to thank the reader for bearing with me and this Affidavit is available in its entirety as part of the public record of this case. Including this much of Karen Pace's deposition in this introduction is important in setting the stage for our story.
I ask the reader to pay careful attention to items 16, 17 and 18 above. Although mention is made of the relationship that existed between the Arlenes and Adoption Choice of Wisconsin, no mention is made of this agency's principals, Melinda Randa and Jill Gerlach and their association with the criminal activities of the Arlenes and Mario Reyes. Again, despite evidence we have submitted regarding this association and the heroic efforts of the authorities in prosecuting the Arlenes and Mario Reyes, prosecution of Adoption Choice and Ms. Randa and Ms. Gerlach does not occur. Karen Pace's deposition leads one to believe that we are not alone in using the Wisconsin agency for our adoption, although several parents terminated their contract with this agency at the urgings of Arlene Lieberman. It bears repeating that except for the Ritter family where the typical scenario of the Arlenes taking clients away from Adoption Choice was reversed and Adoption Choice steered Elyse Ritter into the hands of the Arlenes, all other families either were not involved with Adoption Choice or stopped working with them at the urgings of the Arlenes. I remind the reader again, that in our case, Ms. Randa and Ms. Gerlach participated in the perpetration of a string of lies, deception, deceit and fraud beginning in June 1995 and continuing until our last contact with them in January 1998. The evidence we submitted indicates this Wisconsin agency was involved with the criminals at least during this time frame in contradiction of the statements in Ms. Pace's Affidavit above. The Abate family of Long Island, which used Adoption Choice and the Arlenes for their first adoption from Guatemala, recall Jill Gerlach scolding them for contacting the agency and going over the heads of the Arlenes in the fall of 1997. This is well after Karen Pace's date of July 1997 for the termination of the relationship with the Arlenes by Adoption Choice. Ms. Pace does recognize later in her Affidavit, that at least in our case, the Wisconsin agency was affiliated with the Arlenes as far back as June 1995. I have no reason to believe that these two women were any more truthful with the federal authorities than they were with us. Based on their investigation and on the evidence submitted, the federal authorities chose not to prosecute Adoption Choice in this case. We have been left no other choice but to tell the truth about what happened in our case publicly and let the public draw their own conclusions about the guilt of Ms. Randa and Ms. Gerlach and to be warned about using them or their agency for an adoption.