Former executive director of Strongsville adoption agency pleaded guilty to fraud scheme
By Rachel Vadaj
CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - The Department of Justice confirmed the former executive director of a Strongsville-based international adoption agency pleaded guilty to defrauding the U.S. and Polish authorities in connection with the adoption of a Polish child.
This guilty plea to the fraudulent adoption scheme happened in Cleveland on Feb. 4.
Court documents show 74-year-old Margaret Cole of Strongsville admitted to conspiring with Debra Parris and others to deceive authorities regarding the adoption of a child from Poland.
“When Cole learned that clients of the adoption agency determined they could not care for one of the two Polish children they were set to adopt, Cole and her co-conspirators took steps to transfer the Polish child to Parris’s relatives, who were not eligible for intercountry adoption,” the Department of Justice explained.
Cole, Parris, and others agreed to defraud U.S. authorities to conceal their improper transfer of the Polish child, according to the Department of Justice.
The Department of Justice said the child was injured and hospitalized while living with Parris’s relatives after the adoption.
After the incident, Cole made a false statement to the Polish authority responsible for intercountry adoptions about the transfer of the child that concealed the role she and others had in arranging the transfer of the child to Parris’s relatives, among other information they attempted to keep hidden, according to the Department of Justice.
Cole is scheduled to be sentenced on May 27 after she pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and making a false statement to a Polish authority, the Department of Justice said.
A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors, the Department of Justice explained.
Co-defendant Debra Parris previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with the Poland scheme, as well as conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and to commit visa fraud in connection with a scheme to corruptly and fraudulently procure adoptions of children from Uganda through bribes paid to Ugandan officials, the Department of Justice listed.
The Department of Justice stated Robin Longoria also previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit visa fraud and wire fraud in connection with the Ugandan scheme.
Co-defendant Dorah Mirembe is charged in connection with the Ugandan scheme and remains at large, according to the Department of Justice.
“An indictment is merely an allegation, and Mirembe is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” the Department of Justice stated.
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The case is being investigated by the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office with assistance from the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice of the Northern District of Ohio along with trial attorneys Jason Manning and Alexander Kramer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case.