Police complete probe into adoption scam

Date: 2009-03-02

Written by RNZI and Samoa Observer

Charges are to be laid against two local figures involved in the adoption of local children by defunct adoption agency Focus on Children, Radio New Zealand International reported yesterday.

They are Tagaloa Ieti and Dan Wakefield who were both local employees of Focus on Children (FOC), a US based operation.

The police have completed their investigation into allegations involving the adoption agency Focus on Children and the way Samoan children were adopted by American couples. Tagaloa Ieti, 46, is on the run and police can so far not locate him, Assistant Police Commissioner, Papali’i Li’o Taeu Masipa’u, told RNZI.

The Assistant Police Commissioner says the other suspect implicated by the US authorities, Julie Tuiletufuga, was not investigated.

He did not say why, but overall he says the legal process of adopting the children between local law firms and Focus on Children was, at the time, done according to adoption laws in Samoa.

Tagaloa Ieti and Julie Tuiletufuga are wanted for criminal prosecution in the US over the adoption of Samoan children by American couples.

But the pair cannot be extradited because there is no extradition agreement between the two countries. Daniel Wakefield, 72, will be sentenced in March in the United States for helping locate children in Samoa. A US citizen, Wakefield was a long term resident of Samoa.

Attorney General Aumua Ming Leung Wai [worked for FOC] told Samoa Observer last week that the Chief Executive Officer of the Ministry of Justice and Courts Administration has openly said the FOC adoptions were carried out legally.

It involved sworn statements being given to the District Court by the parties involved. But, said Aumua, “If the District Court was in any way misled in relation to these adoptions, then this is very serious and that is why our own Police were requested to investigate this matter, and if appropriate, to file criminal charges against those involved.”

Eighty Samoan children were adopted out by Focus on Children Agency between 2002 and 2005. The Samoan parents were told the children would be educated in the US and could return home when they were 18.

But the agency told American families they were orphans and accepted thousands of dollars for them. The couple which ran the company, Scott and Karen Banks and two others have been banned for life from having anything to do with adoption. They have each been placed on probation for 60 months.

The death of a child who had been cared for by FOC in Samoa, caused Government to rush through legislation to tighten adoption laws in 2005. The key amendment to the law was this:

“3. Overseas adoption

– The Principal Act is amended by inserting the following after section 7:
“’7A Overseas adoption – (1) Except as provided by subsection (2), a Court shall not make an adoption order involving an overseas adoption.

(2) An adoption order involving an overseas adoption shall not be made by any Court unless the Court has received a certificate from the Attorney General certifying that:
“(a) The infant subject to the overseas adoption does not
Have any family or suitable family or other suitable person in Samoa who is or are willing and able to provide for he care, support and welfare of the infant in Samoa; and
“(b) That there are no other suitable arrangements available in Samoa for the care, support and welfare of the infant.”


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