Mark Fazlollah
The Philadelphia Inquirer
October 30, 1987

A Florida adoption agent who allegedly lured a pregnant Pennsylvania teenager to Louisiana to give up her baby was arrested yesterday in Florida.

The arrest of Richard L. Gitelman, 45, of Coral Springs, Fla., will break up one of the country's most important networks for selling babies, officials said.

Arrested in Coral Springs on a Pennsylvania warrant, Gitelman faces felony charges of conspiracy and interference with the custody of a minor, said Judge Emil Bertugli of Greene County in southwestern Pennsylvania. The charges stemmed from a complaint from a Greene County teenager and her parents.

Gitelman, president of a Florida company called National Adoptive Council Service Inc., allegedly placed advertisements in Pennsylvania newspapers for pregnant women to give up their babies in Louisiana, where adoption laws were lax.

Gitelman handled as many as 20 adoptions a month for fees of up to $60,000 each, with the babies often coming from unwed teenagers, said Judy Cochran, director of the nonprofit group Childrens' Rights of Pennsylvania.

"He is in effect selling babies," said Cochran, who also is a lawyer and who participated in the investigation of the case. "We thought we'd seen every type of exploitation of children, but this is a new one.

"We find something like this and we find our adoption laws don't mean anything if it's done in Louisiana. There is no federal act that protects us here."

Gitelman surrendered to the sheriff in Coral Springs. His attorney suggested Gitelman might waive extradition to Pennsylvania, said Mary Pruss, Greene County assistant district attorney. Gitelman was being held without bond.

A warrant on the same charges was issued for Gitelman's assistant, Karen Prejean, of Baton Rouge, La., Bertugli said.

Morton Laitner, a lawyer who investigated Gitelman for Florida's Health Department, said Gitelman maintained about 20 apartments in Louisiana to house women.

"There were a couple hundred women involved," Laitner said.

He said Louisiana authorities, using computers find adoption cases handled by lawyers hired by Gitelman, had linked "a couple hundred" adoptions to him.

The Greene County girl, Rebekah Lin Dulik, 17, said in an interview yesterday that when she called Gitelman in August in response to a newspaper advertisement, Gitelman promised to pay her $100 a week for three months until she had the baby.

Dulik said that Gitelman, whom she knew only through telephone conversations, had paid for her airline ticket and other travel expenses to Baton Rouge from Greene County, one of the poorest regions in Pennsylvania.

"He said he was working for a family," Dulik said. "He said they were a nice couple, nice people, well educated. He said the couple could pay about $15,000 for my baby.

"I feel kind of stupid because I didn't know what was going on, but it was kind of misleading.

"Everything changed as soon as I got down there. They told me they would give me $100 a week, but they only gave me $80. . . . I couldn't make any phone calls out, and they promised me I could call home."

Four days after her arrival in Louisiana, which until recently had the weakest adoption laws in the United States, Dulik's father found her at a Baton Rouge motel and brought her back to Greene County. He then complained to the attorney general.

Cochran said wealthy couples who were unable to have children paid Gitelman huge fees to arrange adoptions.

"Prospective parents go to a broker, who guarantees he will find a child for you if you will pay him," she said. "It can be from $12,000 to $60,000. What you get for that brokerage fee is that the man will locate a baby for you. So what you're paying for is basically for the baby."

Dulik, who said her baby is due shortly, said that before she left Louisiana with her father, Gitelman suggested that she should have a second baby. She said Gitelman promised to pay for her living expenses if she would have another child and allow it to be adopted through his agency.

"They asked me if I wanted to stay longer. They said I could stay in another apartment if I had another baby for them," she said.

Cochran said state officials were investigating whether other teenage girls who were reported as missing by their parents may have been lured by Gitelman to Louisiana - where adoption laws were stiffened last month in part because of complaints about Gitelman's operation.


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