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Douglas smuggler of babies sentenced


The Arizona Daily Star

Author: Staff and wire reports

UNIONDALE, N.Y. -- A Douglas, Ariz., man was sentenced yesterday to 30 months in federal prison for his role in a scam that delivered babies from Mexico to unwitting adoptive parents in New York.

Manuel Reyes Burgueno, who ran the illegal adoption ring from his Agua Prieta, Sonora, law practice, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Jacob Mishler. The judge also ordered Reyes to pay $125,000 in restitution to the families.

Arlene Lieberman and Arlene Reingold, of Medford, N.Y., who aided Reyes by recruiting prospective adoptive parents willing to pay up to $20,000 each for what they believed were legitimate adoptions, were each sentenced to 15 months in prison and ordered to pay $43,500 in restitution.

All three had previously pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges stemming from a complaint alleging they had smuggled at least 17 Mexican infants into the United States through Douglas.

The adoptive parents, many of whom lived on Long Island, were led to believe that their babies had legally entered the United States.

U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service officials indicated the agency does not intend to deport the children involved or penalize the adoptive parents in the case.

The agency has provided the parents with the documents required for them to obtain Social Security numbers for the children and is assisting the parents in normalizing the children's immigration status.

Barbara Austin, who adopted one of the children, told Judge Mishler that "what we've had to endure was never expected."

She said that since the arrests of Reyes, Reingold and Lieberman, she has worried about the effect it may have on her now 3-year-old daughter. "Everyone has suffered. ... It's never going to leave me."

During the sentencing hearing, Reingold and Lieberman both apologized for their role in the case. But Reyes continued to insist that he was acting as a humanitarian, saving the children from lives of poverty in Mexico and giving them a life with well-to-do American families. He also said his strong anti-abortion philosophy was part of his motivation.

"I saved lives," he told the judge. "These children were going to be aborted. ... I firmly believe I did not damage or hurt anyone."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Macht expressed shock at Reyes' claims, and his continued refusal to accept responsibility.

"It is not a credible argument," he said. "He made large sums of money as a result of this activity, much of it still unaccounted for."

Macht said that during the sentencing process, he presented evidence documenting a total of 23 children who were smuggled into the United States by Reyes. At fees that ranged between $20,000 and $25,000 per child, the baby smuggling operation generated more than $400,000 in revenue.

2000 Apr 18