Date: 2003-12-25

The Miami Herald

The Florida attorney general's office has began an investigation into a Coral Springs adoption agency by serving the agency and its director with formal demands for corporate records.

Lawyers with Attorney General Charlie Crist's office served subpoenas Tuesday on International Adoption Resource Inc. executive director Rebecca Thurmond, and Family Creations, a Bradenton adoption agency that took over International Adoption Resource's operations earlier this month when welfare officials suspended the company.

Another subpoena sought records from Joy J. Shasky, a Deltona woman who was associated with International Adoption Resource, said Jack Moss, Department of Children & Families' district administrator in Fort Lauderdale.

The subpoenas are the first step in an investigation into possible violations of the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act, said Crist's spokeswoman, JoAnn Carrin. The law is a civil statute enforced by the attorney general.

``This is typical of how a case is opened,'' Carrin said Wednesday. ``This is a fact-finding process.''

An attorney for the adoption agency declined Wednesday to discuss the subpoenas or the attorney general's probe. ``My client has asked me not to make any further comment to the press,'' Cheryl R. Eisen said.

Eisen also represents Family Creations, and as registered agent for the Bradenton adoption agency, she said she was served Tuesday with a subpoena seeking documents relating to adoption cases that originated with IAR.

``We will comply with the provisions of the subpoena as soon as we possibly can,'' Eisen said. ``We will cooperate completely with the attorney general's office.''

``In terms of Family Creations, it appears Family Creations is not a target at all of this investigation, but, rather, they have been requested to provide any documents or correspondence they have received from International Adoption Resource. I am certain they do not believe Family Creations has violated any laws, and, merely, the attorney general's office is collecting as much information as they can.''

The controversy began in September when officials in Costa Rica discovered nine Guatemalan babies living in a makeshift nursery allegedly being used as a transit point for infants en route to foreign couples who wanted to adopt.

Costa Rican officials, fearing Guatemala's baby-smuggling problems would penetrate their border, put a high priority on busting the ring. They linked the babies to IAR, the Coral Springs agency, through a Costa Rican lawyer identified as an intermediary.

The attorney general's investigation began at the request of the state Department of Children & Families, said Carrin. DCF suspended IAR's license on Dec. 5. Child welfare officials said IAR lied about its connections with an alleged child smuggler.

Moss, DCF's Broward administrator, said Crist's office commenced its civil probe after a series of discussions among officials from the two state agencies. DCF officials, Moss said, were seeking help gathering records they need before deciding whether to reinstate IAR's license.

IAR's license with the state expires on Jan. 16, Moss said. Child welfare officials hope to resolve the dispute quickly so Thurmond, the agency's director, will know where she stands with the state.


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