Samoan attorney terms adoption charges 'rubbish'

Date: 2007-03-07

Salt Lake Tribune, The (UT)
Author: Brooke Adams The Salt Lake Tribune

Allegations of wrongdoing by a Utah-based adoption agency are "rubbish," a Samoan attorney representing the company said.

Patrick Fepulea'i, one of the attorneys representing Focus on Children, criticized the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Attorney for Utah during a news conference Saturday in Apia, Samoa, according to the Samoa Observer.

During his remarks, Fepulea'i said all adoptions facilitated by the firm had been approved by a district court and met requirements of the country's 1961 Adoptive Ordinance.

Fepulea'i also said that, contrary to allegations in the 135-count indictment, all documents were translated into Samoan for the birth parents, the newspaper reported. He also said those parents were told their ties to the children would be severed.

Last Thursday, a U.S. federal grand jury indicted seven people associated with Focus on Children who allegedly were involved in an adoption fraud scheme.

Those named are: Scott and Karen Banks of Wellsville, Utah; Dan Wakefield, American Fork, Utah; Coleen Bartlett, Evanston, Wyo.; Karalee Thornock, Tooele, Utah; Tagaloa Ieti, Samoa, and Julie Tuiletufuga, Samoa.

According to court documents, the firm coerced birth parents into giving up children with money, humanitarian aid and misrepresentations about the future status of their children. Focus on Children also allegedly told adoptive parents the children were orphans. The scheme involved 81 children who ranged in age from infants to 12.

The charges have brought out critics and defenders of Focus on Children, whose experiences are chronicled on such Web sites as and www.focusonchildrensucks. org.

Fepulea'i told the Samoa Observer that the children, who came from "very poor families," were placed in a "nanny house" and characterized as orphans to meet U.S. adoption criteria. He said Samoan parents signed documents saying they couldn't care for the children, according to the newspaper report.

He told the newspaper that Ieti helped run the nanny house, which was located in Ululoloa. The home closed last year. Fepulea'i said Tuiletufuga had not been involved with Focus on Children since 2000.

The attorney said the allegations exemplify the disrespect the United States has for Samoan court processes, according to the Samoa Observer.

He said that an investigation into the 2005 death of a child who had been placed at the nanny house is ongoing.


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