Mother's search for baby exposes clinic kidnap ring

Jo Tuckman/The Guardian
November 6, 2009

A mother's desperate year-long search for her missing baby has revealed a group of doctors and nurses who allegedly tricked patients into believing that their newborns had died, and then sold the children for a few hundred pounds.

The gang was allegedly headed by the owner of a small private hospital in a working class neighbourhood in the east of Mexico City, where Vanessa Castillo gave birth to a girl by caesarean section on 25 October 2008.

Castillo says she saw the newborn and heard her healthy cries before the baby was whisked away from her for routine tests. The next day one of the doctors who had attended the delivery came to her bedside to inform her that the baby had died and had been cremated.

Castillo said that after she was sent home she kept going to the hospital in search of her baby's death certificate and her ashes, but was repeatedly brushed off. A few months later, however, she received an email from the son of the owner of the clinic, saying that her baby was alive but had been sold by his father for 15,000 pesos (about £700).

The police investigation that followed led to the arrest this week of the owner of the hospital, two doctors, a nurse and a receptionist, as well as a psychologist who has admitted to buying the child and who apparently looked after her well.

Once tests had confirmed that Castillo was the mother of the child, she was reunited with her baby girl at an emotive press conference yesterday.

"This is the first time I have seen her since she was born," a tearful Castillo told reporters.

When she was asked about the woman who had bought her baby, she added, "I would like to thank her for looking after my daughter for the last year, but this is not the way to obtain a child."

Police say they have hard evidence of at least one other similar case involving the clinic, and that they are now going through hospital records in an effort to track down more.

"It could be an important number of babies," Mexico City's chief prosecutor, Miguel Mancera, told the Televisa TV network.

"They didn't just steal babies and give them up in illegal adoptions. They also issued false registrations of births at the clinic for babies born without papers elsewhere."

The arrested doctors have denied the charges, claiming that Castillo had gone to the hospital for a very late abortion, and that they gave the baby away for adoption to safeguard its life.

During the past year, Mexico City's authorities have been under fire for not doing enough to track down child trafficking rings.

Local newspapers reported this week that staff from the same clinic had been arrested in 2005 after another mother reported that her baby had been stolen in very similar circumstances. The prompt release of the staff on that occasion has now raised suspicions of past complicity within the prosecutor's office.

In another high profile case involving older children, at least five wards of court from dysfunctional families placed in a private shelter run by an evangelical church have disappeared without trace.


Life in Adoption-Land

Oh if only this weren't true -- mothers are told their just-birthed babies are dead, just so some one can cash-in a sale.

Unfortunately, dead baby scams are not new, as the 2003 United Nations Ecominic and Social Council report, Violence Against Women, states:

By a letter dated 13 August 2002, sent jointly with the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the Special Rapporteur advised the Government that she had received information concerning fraudulent adoption practices and violence against unmarried women. The allegations involved staff at the Mount Sinai Hospital, the Victor Home for Unwed Mothers, Women’s College Hospital (now Sunnybrook and Women’s) and the Catholic Childrens’ Aid Society (CCAS).     [Cases  can be found on p. 8 of the report  ]

However, media seems to prefer to report the poor PAP version of the dead baby adoption scam.

The woman told Sumner she had gotten lots of responses to her ad, but decided that she wanted Sumner to adopt her baby.

"I can't say I truly believed her," Sumner said, "but I wanted to."

In December 2003, the woman invited Sumner to fly to Wisconsin for her next ultrasound.

During a layover in Chicago, Sumner punched up a voice mail from "Shawnie," who said she had just miscarried.

"I was screaming and crying through the airport," she said. "I couldn't stand up.

"I was devastated because she told me the baby was dead. My other thought was she'd gotten a better offer, and she was just stringing me along."

The woman didn't return Sumner's calls for several days, and Sumner began to think she'd been scammed. She posted a message on an adoption Web site, describing what she went through.

She immediately received responses from four other couples in Iowa, Michigan, Texas and Oregon, all with similar tales about the woman from Maiden Rock, Wis. Several said they'd met her and she went by Melissa.

Sumner compiled the stories and sent them to the police in the woman's hometown. She got a thank-you note, but heard nothing more.

She turned to an agency to adopt a baby in Guatemala. Addison Rose is now 21/2.

"I moved on. I adopted my daughter. My focus changed," said Sumner. "But I thought from time to time what an evil, horrible thing she did."  [From:  Area women exposes baby scam ]

Domestic adoption goes south, so what does the frustrated/eager parent-to-be do?  Money and PAP go to a foreign country, where "abandoned" babies are a-plenty.

Once again, all is happy in Adoption-Land, provided an AP doesn't get burned.

Pound Pup Legacy