Arrest warrant issued in arranged adoption case

The Baton Rouge Advocate
October 30, 1987

The Greene County, Pa., district attorney's office has reissued an arrest warrant for the secretary of a Baton Rouge attorney in connection with the arranged adoption of the unborn baby of an unwed Pennsylvania teen-ager, authorities said Thursday.

Arrest warrants have been issued for Karen Prejean, 34, whose address is listed as her place of work at 715 St. Ferdinand, and for Richard Gitelman, 45, of Coral Springs, Fla., on charges of interfering with the custody of a child and conspiracy to interfere with the custody of a child, said Mary Pruss, assistant district attorney in Greene County.

The pair are accused of enticing Rebekah Lin Dulik, 17, of Nemacolin, Pa., to Louisiana for a pre-arranged, confidential adoption with the promise of paid medical bills, housing, food, maternity clothes and spending money for her and her boyfriend, Pruss said.

Police legal adviser Richard Redd said that although the warrant had not been received in Baton Rouge Thursday, Prejean's attorney told him she would surrender to authorities Friday morning.

"I think she has already made bond arrangements," Redd said.

Gitelman, who has been the target of investigations by agencies in

Florida in connection with illegal adoptions during the past few years, had contacted the sheriff's office in Coral Springs Thursday to tell them he also would surrender himself Friday, Pruss said.

A warrant was issued for Prejean's arrest two months ago, just days after Dulik and her boyfriend, Mark Anthony Hager, 20, of Clarksville, Pa., traveled to Baton Rouge on Aug. 24, Pruss said.

At the same time, Pruss also issued an arrest warrant for Prejean's employer, attorney H. Michael Aaron, on the same charges. It was withdrawn and has not been reissued, Pruss said.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.

Michael Walsh, Prejean's lawyer, said his client "does not work for Richard Gitelman and never has worked for Richard Gitelman. She's only met Richard Gitelman twice."

A warrant was not issued for Gitelman in August.

"The charges are groundless and result from an over-zealous district attorney's office in Pennsylvania," Walsh said. "We intend to fight extradition."

Walsh said 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.

"We're trying to prevent parents losing their children in Louisiana to smooth operators and their attorneys and associates," Pruss said.

Pruss said Gitelman placed classified ads in a Pennsylvania newspaper this summer, looking for pregnant women who wanted to give up their babies to a "young, Caucasian, well-educated, financially secure, happily married couple, unable to have children and desperately want to adopt a newborn."

The phone number in the ad was registered to a private adoption company called ASI Inc., 301 Cypress, in Lafayette.

"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.

Gitelman "isn't a loving, caring couple... 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.

Dulik's 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 and Pennsylvania authorities.

"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... It was a horrible and frightening experience for them."

Hager was arrested in Baton Rouge the day Dulik was taken home by her parents. He was extradited to Pennsylvania and still is in jail there in lieu of $5,000 bond a charge of interfering with the custody of a minor, Pruss said.

"He could get out for $500 but his family is refusing to come up with the money," she said.

Hager also has disobeyed a court order to avoid all contact with Dulik and her family, and has threatened Dulik's family, Pruss said.

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.

"It's been a two-year battle many of us have lived with daily," Kelley said.

Louisiana's law was revised effective Sept. 30 to make 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.

Coral Springs police said they investigated Gitelman, who lives in an exclusive neighborhood of the mostly upper-class northwest Broward County city, about five years ago.

"I'm not surprised. Put it this way. I hope some other agency has more luck than we did," Sgt. Robert Behan, who acted as an undercover officer at the time, said Thursday of the Pennsylvania arrest warrant.

Behan said the state attorney's office called off the investigation because Florida law at the time was too vague.

Dave Casey, an assistant state attorney, said he believed another problem was that the activity was taking place in another state.

The Florida Department of Health and Rehabiliative Services brought a civil action against Gitelman, but did not prevail.

Pruss said that since Gitelman's name has surfaced in connection with the Dulik adoption arrangement, her office has been flooded with complaint calls from women who have already given up their babies for adoption through Gitelman's service and from adoptive parents -- "people who have paid thousands and thousands for a baby."

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