Family Law Prof Blog

Editor: Margaret Ryznar
Indiana University
Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Monday, November 2, 2009

Adoption Agency Director Guilty of Grand Theft

The former director of a Florida adoption agency pleaded guilty to first degree grand theft for bilking prospective adoptive parents out of more than $178,000.

According to the investigation conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, [Debra] West and her agency [Adoptions by Choice] collected birth mother expenses from adoptive couples under the guise that the money would be extended to the birth mother, but would extend little or none of it to the birth mother. West and her agency would then submit fraudulent affidavits to the court, claiming to have spent all the couple’s money faithfully.

Many of the fraudulent affidavits claimed thousands of dollars were spent on hospital-related expenses associated with the birth mother’s pregnancy when in reality, the birth mothers were covered by Medicaid or private insurance. In some cases, where money was actually extended to the birth mother on the adoptive couple’s behalf, West would submit proof of the payments to a charitable organization known to reimburse adoption agencies for birth mother expenses. In most cases, West, through her agency, ended up pocketing the vast majority of the money and creating false documents in order to conceal the embezzlement.

Read the full story here.


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