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Suit claims adoption scam


An adoption agency based here has been accused of “bait-and-switch tactics by five couples who tried to adopt babies from Central America

P.J. REILLY Staff Writer

A Lancaster-based adoption agency and its directors are accused in a federal lawsuit of running a "bait-and-switch" baby adoption scheme that bilked tens of thousands of dollars from five couples.

Named as defendants in the suit are Main Street Adoption Services, Nina Heller, Robert McClenaghan and Marcia Del Carpio. The suit was filed June 7 in United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

"Plaintiffs were victimized by the schemes of bribe solicitation and extortion of defendants," the suit states. It alleges the defendants "caused plaintiffs to send money for adoptions that have not been completed" and might not ever be completed, or the money was sent out of fear that the defendants would prevent the completion of adoptions, the suit states.

McClenaghan and Heller both list addresses of 65 W. Roseville Road in Manheim Township. Del Carpio is from Florida.

Main Street Adoption Services is named in the suit as having a post office box address, although an Internet search for the business turned up several hits listing an address of 65 W. Roseville Road.

Contacted by phone Tuesday, McClenaghan had no comment.

He is the owner of 65 W. Roseville Road, according to county tax records.

The five couples who filed the suit are Guy Turi and Melissa Balistreri-Turi, George and Linda Wood and Todd and Kelleen Urbon, all of Illinois; Shaun Nugent and Christine Denton of Minnesota and Sam and Lisa Wells of Louisiana.

None of their attorneys returned a reporter's phone calls Tuesday.

Through the suit, they are seeking an unspecified sum in damages.

Following are accounts of each couple's experiences with Main Street as cited in the lawsuit.

Guy Turi and Melissa Balistreri-Turi

In April 2007, the couple began working with Main Street on adopting an 18-month-old girl.

Main Street's website - which no longer exists - stated the adoption would take five months, according to the suit.

After receiving a medical report on the girl, the couple paid Main Street $3,000. They paid another $9,500 a month later and traveled to Guatemala to meet the girl, who was supposed to be brought to a hotel by Del Carpio.

But Del Carpio didn't show up.

The suit said she eventually called the couple and informed them the birth mother had reclaimed the girl 11 days before the couple left for Guatemala.

Main Street then offered the couple another child. The hopeful adoptive parents met the girl and "fell in love" with her, the suit states.

Multiple problems arose over the next several months, and, after paying Main Street more than $25,000, Heller and McClenaghan informed the couple in April 2008 that the adoption would never be completed.

The suit states Main Street then offered the couple an adoption from Ethiopia, but the couple declined.

"The defendants repeatedly provided false information and their unethical behavior, lack of monitoring and misrepresentations induced the plaintiffs into the adoptions," the suit states. "Plaintiffs have been damaged financially and emotionally."

Shaun Nugent and Christine Denton

The couple contacted Main Street in November 2006 about adopting a brother and sister from Guatemala. They were told it would cost $32,000, and they paid a sum to Main Street to start the process, but the suit doesn't say how much they paid.

A month later, Main Street notified the couple that the children were no longer available for adoption.

The agency also said it couldn't return any money, because the directors didn't know where it went, the suit states. They pledged, however, to apply the sum toward another adoption.

The couple agreed to adopt a girl they were told was 2, and who possibly had scoliosis. Later, they found out the girl was nearly 4 and healthy.

The couple finally adopted the girl in June 2008, but only after spending more than $170,000, firing Main Street and hiring an attorney to finish the process.

"Defendants failed to complete the adoption and had a duty to know that the children were really available for adoption," the suit states.

Sam and Lisa Wells

The couple paid Main Street $6,000 in August 2007 to adopt a specific girl in Guatemala.

In November, Main Street informed the couple that girl was no longer available for adoption. The agency offered to find another one.

Over the next several months, the couple was caught in the middle of a feud between Heller and Del Carpio, both of whom were working on adoptions of different babies for the Wellses.

That feud caused problems for the couple with the U.S. Immigration Service's Adoptions Unit.

As a result, the suit states, the couple has not been able to adopt either baby and "have been the victims of multiple requests for money, a bait and switch adoption scheme and various other illegal acts."

George and Linda Wood

The couple contacted Main Street in January 2007 about a Guatemalan girl listed on a website as being available for adoption through the agency.

According to the suit, Main Street reported to the Woods in November 2007 that the adoption had received pre-approval and would be completed as soon as the couple sent the final payment.

The Woods paid the money - which totaled $29,200 to this point - but were then told in January that the birth mother had reclaimed the girl.

Later that month, Heller told the Woods that the adoption was off and offered to help them find a child to adopt in one of several countries in Africa and Europe.

No such adoption ever occurred.

Todd and Kelleen Urbon

The couple, who had already adopted another child internationally through a different agency, contacted Main Street in May 2007 about adopting a boy 18 to 24 months old from Guatemala.

Main Street sent the Urbons photos of a boy whom the agency said had been surrendered by his mother for adoption.

In August, Heller told the couple the birth mother had taken the boy out of foster care and left the area. She reported to them a month later that the mother was in jail and the boy would soon be available again for adoption.

Heller told the couple in October, according to the suit, that she believed there were problems with the boy's identification documents and that he would not be available for adoption.

At that time, Heller offered another child, and the Urbons began the process to adopt him.

In December, the couple wired $12,000 to Main Street for the adoption.

Over the next month, the suit states, various problems arose with the adoption process, and Heller told the Urbons the boy was not available. Later, she told them he was available again.

In late January 2008, the Urbons refused to pay any more money until the adoption was cleared. They soon backed out of the process regarding that child but agreed to try to adopt another boy Main Street offered.

By May 2008, the suit states, Main Street said there were multiple problems with the adoption of this new boy and the Urbons ended their relationship with the agency.

"Defendant (Main Street) has engaged in a scheme to defraud people seeking to become parents," the suit states.

2011 Jun 14