Three Individuals Charged with Fraud and FCPA Violations in International Adoption Scheme
FCPA cases can arise in un usual situations. DOJ has focused two separate prosecutions on bribery and fraud involving adoptions from Uganda and Poland. At the heart, the defendants bribed Ugandan and Polish authorities to secure children who were not orphaned and deceived prospective parents as to the orphaned status of the children placed for adoption. In the end, innocent children were removed from their homes and their parents.
In its latest case, DOJ charged three women in a 13-count indictment for their participation in a scheme to procure adoptions of Ugandan and Polish children by bribing Ugandan officials and defrauding the adoptive parents and Polish government officials.
In August 2019, Robin Longoria, a co-conspirator, plead guilty DOJ secured a guilty plea to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and commit wire and mail fraud. Longoria clearly cooperated with DOJ prosecutors to secure the recent indictment against three co-conspirators.
The three defendants, Margaret Cole. 73, Debra Parris, 68 and Dorah Mirembe, 41 were charged. The defendants engaged in bribery and fraud to commit an international criminal adoption scheme that ripped children from their home countries in Uganda and Poland without confirming that the children were actually orphans. The defendants earned approximately $900,000 from its illegal scheme.
With respect to the Uganda scheme, Parris and Mirembe were each charged with FCPA and visa fraud conspiracy, conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, money laundering conspiracy, three substantive FCPA counts, and three substantive counts of money laundering.
The underlying facts showed that Parris and Mirembe paid bribes to Ugandan foreign officials to corruptly secure the adoption of Ugandan children by United States families, including the adoption of children who were not orphans and had to be returned to their birth parents. Specifically, Parris and Mirembe paid bribes to: (a) social welfare officers to secure reports recommending that certain children be placed into orphanages without confirming they were, in fact, were orphaned; (b) Ugandan magistrate judges to obtain court orders placing those children in orphanages; (c) court registers to assign the cases of these children to two corrupt “adoption-friendly” judges; and (d) corrupt Ugandan judges to obtain orders to permit their clients to bring the children to the US for adoption.
Parris and Mirembe lied to and concealed information from adoptive parents, including false statements about bribe payments, whether the children were, in fact, eligible for adoption, and concealing information about the children’s history. Also, Parris and Mirembe created false documents to the US State Department to mislead in its review of visa applications for the children.
With respect to the Poland scheme, Parris and Cole were each charged with conspiracy to defraud the US; and Cole was charged with making a false statement to a US entity and making a false statement to a Polish authority. After clients of the adoption agency determined they could not care for one of the two children from Poland, Cole and Parris sought to transfer the child to Parris’ relatives who were not eligible for intercountry adoptions and one of whom had a criminal arrest record.
After the child was physically abused, Cole and Parris took steps to conceal their conduct from the entity responsible for accrediting intercountry adoption agencies and from the Polish authorities responsible for such adoptions.