Imagine trying to adopt after losing your baby to stillbirth, only to be told the adoptive baby died right after being born. Does that sound too tragic?
It’s what happened to one of the women responsible for catching Tara Lee and helping bring her to justice.
I have written about adoption fraud in the past, and sadly this type of fraud is more common than you would imagine.
Three moms from different places in the country came to Michigan recently for 38-year-old Tara Lee’s sentencing in federal court following her plea of guilty to 2 of the 23 federal wire fraud charges against her.
Many more victims came forward to make impact statements before her sentencing.
Adoption Scammer Caught
Tara Lee, operating under the name Always Hope Pregnancy and Education Center in Macomb, was not licensed by the state of Michigan to facilitate adoptions or match birth mothers with adoptive families.
Instead, the adoption scammer was a calculating con artist. From 2014 through 2018, Lee posed as a licensed social worker matching birth mothers with prospective parents. While she did match some birth mothers with parents, her deceit caused pain and suffering to both birth mothers and adoptive parents.
More than 160 couples and 70 birth moms in 24 states became victims of the scam.
Lee’s lies included matching couples with babies who never existed, even going so far as to show some ultrasound pictures, and telling them the baby had died or that the mother had changed her mind.
Some of the couples were matched with a birth mother already paired with someone else.
Each time, Lee requested thousands of dollars of payment for these “failed” adoptions.
After two failed adoptions each, three moms decided to investigate. They started a private Facebook group for other victims and began to piece together the puzzle, including details of the horrible way Lee was treating the birth moms. Then they reported Lee to the FBI.
Adoption Fraud Sentence
Adoptive parents are highlighting the need for adoption law reform in this country. It is still far too easy for scammers like Tara Lee to prey on innocent families.
As I’ve written about before, even legal, documented adoption procedures could end in these heartbreaking ways, with thousands of dollars gone and no baby to show for it. Adoptive parents know it’s going to be expensive so that they can be sitting ducks.
Tara Lee was ordered to pay $1 million in restitution and to forfeit $300,000. She was alleged to have collected $2.1 million from these families.
U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman told the court he wished he could give her a life sentence, saying, “you’ve ruined people’s lives for generations.”
Instead, he gave her a ten year and one-month sentence for wire fraud. It means she will one day go free.
In addition to the federal prison sentence, Judge Friedman gave Lee a task to complete before her sentence was complete. She has to read and record each of the 40 victim impact statements submitted before the hearing. He told her, “If you miss even one word, you’re going to start over again.”
One way to avoid an adoption scammer is to make sure to have proof of licensing from your adoption agency.
If you are facing fraud charges, you need the help of a skilled defense attorney today. Although Tara Lee did not receive a life sentence, her time in federal prison will not be easy. Call today for your free phone consultation.