Man Charged With Running Illegal Adoption Network
October 30, 1987
A four-state investigation into a national adoption service that recruits pregnant women to give up their babies - predominantly to New York couples - has led to the arrest of a Florida man who heads the service.
Richard Gitelman, who heads the National Adoption Counseling Service from his home in Coral Springs, Fla., was arrested yesterday after he allegedly lured a pregnant Pennsylvania teenager to give up her baby using misleading advertisements. Pennsylvania authorities have charged him with interfering and conspiring with the custody of a minor and conspiring to place misleading advertisements.
About 90 percent of the babies Gitelman has placed - until recently through private adoptions made final in Louisiana - go to New York couples who, authorities say, pay from $30,000 to $50,000 or more.
While Gitelman had not faced criminal charges before now, his methods have made him a target of investigation by New York, Florida and Pennsylvania authorities and have prompted the Louisiana State Legislature to change the state's private adoption laws, officials said.
"Richard Gitelman was taken into custody at 3 o'clock this afternoon by the Broward County Sheriffs Department and at this point he has been processed and will await arraignment," said Judianne Cochran, executive director of Pennsylvania's Children's Rights Association and coordinator of the Gitelman investigation.
The Pennsylvania warrant was issued in connection with the case of Rebeka Lin Dulik, a pregnant 17-yearold from Nemacolin, Pa., who responded to an advertisement allegedly placed by Gitelman in a local newspaper. The ad stated that a "Young, caucasian, well-educated, financially secure, happily married couple" wanted to adopt a newborn.
In a telephone conversation with Dulik, Gitelman allegedly had promised to pay for her travel expenses, living arrangements, new maternity clothes and medical costs related to delivery, Cochran said.
Dulik's parents reported her missing, officials said. Several days after she disappeared, Pennsylvania authorities tracked down Dulik, then 16, at a Howard Johnson's motel in Baton Rouge, La., said Mary Pruss, an assistant district attorney for Greene County, Pa.
When she was found, she was preparing to move into one of three apartment complexes in Baton Rouge, where Cochran said 15 to 20 pregnant girls have been living at once, under arrangements made between the birth mothers, Gitelman and local attorneys in Louisiana.
Pennsylvania authorities, in connection with officials in New York, Florida and Louisiana, began investigating the Gitelman operation "when we realized the magnitude of advertising and the large number of juveniles involved," said Cochran, who said she talked with about 20 other birth mothers "from here to Texas". "All had very negative experiences, Cochran said."
Gitelman's attorney, Frank Heston of Coral Springs, Fla., could not be reached for comment last night. Gitelman has denied, in court papers, that he runs an adoption agency or sells babies. An adoption agency is licensed by a state and has authority to bring parents and babies together for an adoption. Both agency and private adoptions must be approved by a judge.
But the scope of Gitelman's activities can be measured by a one-year period, ended in 1986, in Louisiana alone. He handled 129 private adoptions, compared with the 145 agency adoptions arranged through the state. All but one of the state agency adoptions involved parties within the state, whereas all of Gitelman's adoptions involved out of state parties, with 90 percent of the babies adopted going to New York couples, authorities said.
The Louisiana Legislature changed its private adoption laws, effective Sept. 30, to require at least one party in a private adoption to be a state resident. Brenda Kelley, a deputy assistant secretary for the office of human development for Louisiana, said the laws were changed mostly in response to Gitelman's activities.
Kelley said authorities were alarmed by allegations from birth mothers about being pressured to give up their babies and getting involved in a little-explained situation. Prospective adopting couples also complained they did not receive complete background on birth mothers through Gitelman. In three cases, Kelley said, children with severe medical problems were abandoned by both birth mother and prospective parents, and were left to be cared for by the state.