Margaret Cole of European Adoption Consultants Sentenced to Three Months in Prison for Fraudulent Adoption of Polish Girl

I am heartsick at this outcome. Warning: mention of horrific child abuse.

According to the Cleveland.com website, Margaret Cole, the executive director of European Adoption Consultants, a now-defunct Ohio adoption agency, was sentenced today to three months in prison and a $7500 fine. She will then serve one year on house arrest.

Cole pled guilty to conspiracy to defraud U.S. and Polish adoption authorities and for lying to Polish authorities.

That sounds almost innocuous, doesn’t it? Here’s what happened: Two Polish sisters were placed by Cole’s adoption agency with a family that wanted only one. Cole and her associate Debra Parris then placed one of the sisters with a relative of Parris, without any vetting or oversight. and without informing either Polish or U.S. authorities. The adoptive father had a domestic violence conviction. He later raped the five-year-old child so badly she needed surgery. He was sentenced to 48 years in jail.

I don’t know how the child is doing, who truly deserves enormous compensation from Cole. The money would not make up for the horrific crime committed against the child, but a three month sentence seems unconscionable.

An FBI investigation also found that Parris and another of Cole’s staffers, Robin Longoria, were guilty of bribing judges in Uganda to place children for adoption who were not orphans nor abandoned. Prosecutors dropped the charges against Cole for the Ugandan fraud, apparently because Cole pled guilty to the Polish adoption charges. Longoria was sentenced to one year and one day in prison. Parris will be sentenced July 7.

Cole pled guilty last February. In sentencing Cole today, the judge said he factored in her age (74) and health issues. The Cleveland.com article said that at least one adoptive father who used Cole’s agency to adopt a son from Russia said Cole “made over 8,000 lives better,” referring to the number of children placed by European Adoption Consultants. Cole herself said “I’m really sorry for what happened but I worked for 24 years to help 8,000 families. The children were the joy of my life.”

A three month sentence and a $7500 fine seems inconsequential and wildly inadequate punishment for the lies and fraud that resulted in a little girl being “brutally raped,” as the Cleveland.com reported.

Heartbreaking.

Postscript: While their website is gone, the LinkedIn description for European Adoption Consultants still says this: “EAC is a Hague accredited, well-respected and ethical agency that has assisted in the placement of more than 8,000 children since 1991. We are one of the top international adoption agencies, offering child adoption services and adoption information for international adoptions through Bulgaria, China, Colombia, Haiti, Honduras, India, Poland, Uganda and Ukraine.” Hague accreditation is the highest standard available for international adoption agencies.

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Another Adoption Agency Worker Pleads Guilty to Fraud: This Time, In Uganda

You may be aware that, in 2014, the U.S. Justice Department brought charges of fraud and corruption against the staff of International Adoption Group for their work in Ethiopia. The three U.S. employees (Mary Mooney, James Harding, and Alisa Bivens) ultimately pleaded guilty and were sentenced in 2017.

This week, the Justice Department announced that Robin Longoria pleaded guilty to “Conspiracy to Facilitate Adoptions from Uganda Through Bribery and Fraud.”

Longoria was an adoption agency worker most recently with A Love Beyond Borders, a COA-Hague accredited adoption agency based in Denver, CO. She is still listed on their staff page.

Longoria pleaded guilty for “her role in a scheme to corruptly facilitate adoptions of Ugandan children through bribing Ugandan officials and defrauding U.S. adoptive parents and the U.S. Department of State.” The Justice Department notice says Longoria “managed aspects of an international program in an Ohio-based adoption agency.” Longoria worked for the now-closed agency European Adoption Consultants (EAC), based in Ohio.

The U.S. State Department debarred EAC in 2016, and upheld the debarment in 2017. In February 2017, the FBI raided EAC, “as part of an ongoing criminal investigation. According to LinkedIn, Longoria joined A Love Beyond Borders (ALBB) in February 2017.

ALBB has apparently removed Robin Longoria’s Staff profile from their page. I took the screenshot this morning.

Yesterday, Robin Longoria pleaded guilty in the Northern District of Ohio court to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) to commit wire fraud and to commit visa fraud.” Sentencing will take place on as yet unnamed date.

An FBI Special Agent said “We are pleased that Ms. Longoria has accepted responsibility for her role in facilitating an international adoption scam.”

All of us who have been involved in international adoption are also pleased about that. I find it significant that the Justice Department brought IAG to justice for their Ethiopia programs, and now Longoria has pleaded guilty to crimes in Uganda. I have no inside information, but feel confident that this guilty plea came as the result of some intensive investigations by the Justice Department over the course of years. “This defendant has admitted to playing a part in a conspiracy in which judges and other court officials…were paid bribes to corrupt the adoption process,” said a Justice Department attorney. Another said, “The defendant compromised protection for vulnerable Ugandan children…”

There are “co-conspirators” mentioned in the Justice Department press release. which suggests that others could be named. Longoria and her co-conspirators agreed to pay bribes in Uganda that were disguised as fees to corruptly influence “adoption-friendly judges;” they also concealed these bribes from the adoption agency’s clients, the adoptive parents. Further, Longoria and her co-conspirators created false documents for the State Department “to mislead it in its adjudication of visa applications for the Ugandan children being considered for adoption.”

Fraud, corruption, and deceit all underly the adoptions which Longoria and her co-conspirators facilitated. Their actions, along with those of the IAG staff, create storm clouds over other adoption agencies, and over the Hague Adoption Convention accreditation process. IAG staff lied to the Council on Accreditation on their application for Hague accreditation. COA renewed EAC’s accreditation in April 2016 for a period of four years.

COA no longer oversees the Hague accreditation process. As of August 2017, the sole accrediting entity is IAAME. Several adoption agencies have lost accreditation either temporarily or permanently since then; others have voluntarily given up their accreditation.

These legal and accreditation issues are important. They don’t, however, convey the heartache caused by these crimes: the Ugandan children and their original families, and the U.S. adoptive families. The damage done to them will remain forever. I have no doubt that a lot of people helped bring this case to fruition, and that the investigation took a lot of time and money. I am grateful for the integrity of those willing to pursue these cases, and I appreciate the work of the U.S. Justice Department, the U.S. State Department, and everyone involved.

Among those are the tireless folks of Reunite, which helps to preserve families and reunited those who have been separated by illicit adoptions in Uganda. Reunite sees this as “a first step in a much longer journey,” and hopes that justice will come “to all those in America and Uganda who were involved in these corrupt and unethical adoptions.” I hope so too.