BABY BROKER FACES CHARGES

RONALD DAWKINS
The Miami Herald
October 30, 1987

The owner of an adoption referral agency whose service may have collected as much as $1 million a week surrendered Thursday at the Broward County Jail to face Pennsylvania charges that he operated illegally as a baby broker.

Richard Gitelman, 45, of 10111 Vestal Ct., Coral Springs, was jailed without bail on charges of interfering with the custody of a child and conspiracy to publish misleading advertisements.

Neither Gitelman nor his attorney, Frank Heston, could be reached for comment.

Mary Pruss, assistant district attorney for Greene County, Pa., said Gitelman and Karen Prejean, of Baton Rouge, La., placed classified ads in newspapers to entice pregnant teen- agers to put their babies up for adoption after the births.

The ads, which listed a Louisiana telephone number, were placed in central and western Pennsylvania newspapers during the summer. The ads asked teen-agers with an unwanted pregnancy to give up their babies to a "loving couple" willing to adopt the child.

Gitelman allegedly charged clients from $50,000 to $70,000 to locate and arrange the adoption of a baby, Broward sheriff's spokesman Al Gordon said.

The prospective adoptive parents also were responsible for the mother's living and medical expenses, transportation costs and out-of-pocket expenses.

"The ad said it was a loving couple, but, when women called the number in the ad, what they got was Mr. Gitelman," Pruss said. "I don't think a broker can qualify as a loving couple."

The girls who contacted Gitelman and agreed to the adoption were sent to Baton Rouge and kept in a motel, where their living expenses and medical bills were paid, Gordon said.

"After the child was born, the mother was kept in the hospital for five days until the adoption papers were signed," Gordon said.

"They were then turned out on the street with no money and no transportation back home," Gordon added. "He handled 15 to 20 girls per week doing this."

One ad that ran in the Herald-Standard of Uniontown, Pa.,
drew the attention of 17-year-old Rebekah Lin Dulik of Nemacolin, Pa., who moved to Louisiana to have her baby.

Pruss said Dulik and her boyfriend, Mark Hager, 20, were provided airline tickets to Louisiana and promised spending money, maternity clothes and coverage for hospital expenses.

"We believe that he knew how old she was when he sent her the plane tickets," Pruss said. "They arrived the day after she turned 17."

Pruss said Louisiana law considers everyone under 17 as minorsand prohibits them from establishing a residence without parental consent.

Dulik's parents did not know that she was five months pregnant or that she had planned to go to Louisiana, Pruss said. They found their daughter a week later after friends told them she had talked about the newspaper ad.

The parents went to Louisiana, got their daughter and contacted Pennsylvania authorities, who issued the arrest warrant for Gitelman and charged Hager with conspiracy and interfering with the custody of a minor.

Gitelman was the owner of National Adoption Counseling Service in Coral Springs when the Florida Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services ordered the business closed in April 1985, charging Gitelman with illegally arranging adoptions.

In December 1985, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled the department had no authority to close the agency and that officials should have sought criminal charges if they believed the business was operating illegally. No criminal charges were filed.

None of the mothers or prospective parents the business dealt with then or since were from Florida, said HRS attorney Morton Laitner.

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