Suspect held in `baby broker' case

Houston Chronicle/Associated Press
October 30, 1987

PITTSBURGH - A man who allegedly used newspaper classified ads to entice an unwed pregnant Pennsylvania teen-ager to give up her baby for adoption surrendered to Florida authorities Thursday.

Richard Gitelman, 45, of Coral Springs, Fla., was held in the Broward County Jail in Fort Lauderdale without bond awaiting extradition to Pennsylvania, said sheriff's spokesman Al Gordon.

Warrants were issued for Gitelman and Karen Prejean of Baton Rouge, La., on charges of conspiracy and interferring with the custody of a child in the case of Rebekah Lin Dulik, 17, of Nemacolin, Pa.

Prejean had not been arrested by early Thursday night. Her attorney, Michael Walsh, said she never had worked for Gitelman.

Walsh said the Dulik had lied about her age. "When Karen Prejean found out she was a minor, they immediately put her in touch with her parents," Walsh said.

Mary Pruss, assistant district attorney in Greene County, Pa., said Gitelman placed ads in a newspaper over the summer, looking for pregnant women who wanted to give up their babies to "a loving couple who wants to adopt."

"The ad suggests it's a loving couple placing this ad and to call this number. When you call the number, you get Mr. Gitelman or an answering service," Pruss said.

"He isn't a loving, caring couple. He's a broker, a baby broker. His job is to locate the babies, and they're matched up, with the assistance of attorneys, with adoptive parents," she said.

Pruss said Gitelman charged fees of $10,000 to $30,000 to locate a baby. The prospective adoptive parents were responsible for the mother's living and medical expenses, transportation costs and out-of-pocket expenses.

Dulik began communicating with Gitelman in July after seeing an ad in the Herald-Standard of Uniontown, Pruss said.

The teen-ager "was asked to send in pictures of herself and her boyfriend and their own baby pictures," Pruss said. "I think he puts this little booklet together showing what the parents look like now and when they were babies."

She said Gitelman provided Dulik and her boyfriend, Mark Hager, 20, with airline tickets to Louisiana and promised her spending money, new maternity clothes and full coverage of hospital expenses.

The girl flew to Baton Rouge on Aug. 24, Pruss said. Her parents were neither aware that she was five months pregnant nor that she had planned to go to Louisiana, Pruss said.

The couple found their daughter a week later after talking to her friends.

"The real victims are the parents," Pruss said. "They had no idea where their daughter was... And then when they did find her, they had no idea what to do, whether she would be put out on the street, turned into a prostitute. It was a horrible and frightening experience for them."

With the help of authorities in Pennsylvania and Louisiana, the Duliks brought their daughter home and agreed to press charges against Gitelman and Prejean, who works for Baton Rouge attorney Michael Aaron, Pruss said.

She said Dulik's living expenses in Baton Rouge were arranged by Prejean. Aaron was not charged because Dulik had no direct dealings with him, she said.

Hager faces trial on charges of conspiracy and interfering with the custody of a minor.

Brenda Kelley, deputy assistant secretary of Louisiana's Office of Human Development, said Gitelman took advantage of a loophole in the state's adoption laws to arrange for up to 150 adoptions in a 15-month period ending in December 1986.

Most of those babies, she said, were sent to couples in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Louisiana's law has been revised, effective Sept. 30, making it illegal for an out-of-state mother and out-of-state adoptive couple to arrange adoptions in the state. Kelley said at least one of the two parties must have a history of residence in Louisiana.

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