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Ex-mother of adoptive children found in Africa gets 25 years


Ex-mother of adoptive children found in Africa gets 25 years

Mercury Liggins admits to pocketing $443,000 in social services benefits

By Dale Lezon | March 15, 2006

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A Houston woman whose seven adoptive children were found sick and malnourished in a Nigerian orphanage was sentenced to 25 years in prison Tuesday after admitting she had defrauded federal and state social services programs.

Mercury Liggins, 49, pleaded guilty to theft for receiving about $443,000 in benefits for which she was not eligible from the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicaid and Child Protective Services, said Harris County Assistant District Attorney Carl Hobbs. She could have been sentenced to life in prison.

Hobbs said the thefts took place between 1992 and March 2005. Liggins collected benefits even though she owned assets, including several homes, that made her ineligible, he said. The thefts came to light after her adoptive children — now ranging in age from 10 to 18 — were found in a Nigerian orphanage in August 2004.

They were placed in the orphanage after Nigerian officials reported finding them ill and underfed at a relative's home. Liggins has said she did not abandon the children but sent money for their welfare while she worked as a civilian contractor in Iraq. State Department officials and Texas congressional members helped bring the children back to Houston.

Liggins has relinquished custody. The children are now in foster care and can be adopted, officials said.


2006 Mar 15