Adoption fraud alleged

Date: 2004-03-30

San Antonio Express-News

S.A. woman is arrested after 5 couples pay money and receive no babies.

Author: Guillermo Contreras; EXPRESS-NEWS STAFF WRITER

The woman at the other end of the telephone line said she had a young Caucasian girl, a biracial baby boy, even some twins ready for adoption in the San Antonio area.

Jennifer J. Holdren, executive director of an adoption service in Pennsylvania, gave her clients the good news.

Five couples lined up, each sending thousands of dollars for adoption fees to the woman in San Antonio. In March 2003, they traveled here, where they met a woman who said she was with First Steps Adoptions.

The woman promised to return with their new children the next day, so the couples waited.

And waited.

The woman never returned.

On Monday, federal authorities arrested a San Antonio woman on charges that she duped money out of couples longing for adopted children.

The woman, identified as Christy Lee Nugent, is charged with mail and wire fraud. She had been sought by the FBI for a year.

The charges stem from an eight-count indictment filed in Williamsport, Pa.

"She called in and said, 'I give up,'" said Rene Salinas, spokesman for the FBI in San Antonio.

Nugent turned herself in at a local Child Protective Services office and was arrested by agents about 12: 30 p.m.

To Holdren, executive director of Bellafonte, Pa.-based Heart to Heart Adoption Services, it was a relief to hear that the woman she knew as Rebecca Warly had finally been caught.

According to Holdren and court records, Warly - one of the aliases Nugent used, according to the indictment - spoke with the couples and even requested background information showing the prospective parents would provide a safe home. She also asked for fees, up to $4,160 from at least one family, court records said.

It wasn't until the families traveled to San Antonio to pick up the children that reality set in.

There were no babies.

There was no Warly.

There was only a Christian Nugent - another one of the aliases Nugent is accused of using - who met the couples, accompanied them to hotels and told them to wait, court records said.

In some cases, the families waited several days without hearing from the woman.

"Two of the couples had already had failed adoptions, and to go down and have this happen to them was the icing on the cake," said Holdren, who co-founded Heart to Heart.

Informed of the case, the FBI kept an aggressive lookout for Nugent, even watching her father's house on Bikini Drive in Northeast San Antonio.

Her days on the lam apparently over, Nugent on Monday quietly answered questions from a federal magistrate.

After being told she would have to wait three days in jail for another hearing Thursday to decide her bond, she had what appeared to be a fainting spell or an epileptic attack.

Paramedics were called and she was taken to University Hospital. She remained there late Monday under guard by federal marshals.


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