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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Margaret Cole of European Adoption Consultants Pleads Guilty to Fraud in International Adoption

Margaret Cole of European Adoption Consultants, a now closed adoption agency in Ohio, admitted February 4, 2022, that she was guilty in the case of a child adopted fraudulently from Poland. Cole was expected to go to trial next week on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and of making false statements to Polish authorities. Two other agency staffers (Debra Parris and Robin Longoria) had already admitted guilt and will be sentenced in March. Cole will be sentenced in May.

The U.S. Justice Department issued a press release about the case. They note that “According to court documents, Margaret Cole, 74, of Strongsville, Ohio, 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.

Cole, Parris and others agreed to defraud U.S. authorities to conceal their improper transfer of the Polish child.  Following the adoption, the child was injured and hospitalized while living with Parris’s relatives. (See my note below: the child was horrifically abused.) Thereafter, Cole made a false statement to the Polish authority responsible for intercountry adoptions about the transfer of the child that, among other things, concealed the role of Cole and others in arranging the transfer of the child to Parris’s relatives.”

Last November, Debra Parris pleaded guilty to fraud in adoption from Poland and Uganda. The staffers of European Adoption Consultants had been indicted for fraud and other charges by the U.S. Justice Department last August. Cole’s trial was to begin this week. Instead, she pleaded guilty to the charge involving a child from Poland.

Sentencing for Parris will be on March 9, 2022. Cole is scheduled to be sentenced on May 27.

I hope they receive maximum sentences. I wish that the children and the families were able to receive justice as well. May they heal from this tragic crime.

Content warning: Child abuse

The child adopted from Poland was placed with John and Georgiana Tufts. John Tufts is the son of Debra Parris. John Tufts initially said he was innocent of horrific child abuse. In 2019, he was convicted. He was sentenced to 48 years in jail. I deeply grieve for that child, and for all the children and families that we do not know about who were deeply harmed by those who worked in this adoption agency.

European Adoption Consultants’ Staffer Pleads Guilty to Bribery, Fraud

The U.S. Justice Department reported today that Debra Parris, program manager at Ohio adoption agency European Adoption Consultants, has pleaded guilty to charges of fraud and bribery in the adoption of children from Poland and Uganda.

Parris was indicted in August 2020 along with the executive director Margaret Cole and staff person Dorah Mirembe.

Cole is expected to go to trial in February 2022. Mirembe, the Justice Department says, is “still at large.”

Below is the press release from the U.S. Justice Department. You can also find it here.


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Texas Woman Pleads Guilty to Schemes to Procure Adoptions from Uganda and Poland through Bribery and Fraud

A Texas woman who was a program manager at an Ohio-based international adoption agency pleaded guilty today in the Northern District of Ohio to schemes to procure adoptions of Ugandan and Polish children by bribing Ugandan officials and defrauding U.S. authorities.

According to court documents, Debra Parris, 69, of Lake Dallas, engaged in a scheme with others to bribe Ugandan officials to procure adoptions of Ugandan children by families in the United States. These bribes included payments to (a) probation officers intended to ensure favorable probation reports recommending that a particular child be placed into an orphanage; (b) court registrars to influence the assignment of particular cases to “adoption-friendly” judges; and (c) High Court judges to issue favorable guardianship orders for the adoption agency’s clients. In her plea agreement, Parris also admitted that she continued to direct the adoption agency’s clients to work with her alleged co-conspirator Dorah Mirembe, after knowing that Mirembe caused clients of the adoption agency to provide false information to the U.S. State Department for the purpose of misleading it in its adjudication of visa applications.

According to court documents, in a second scheme, after alleged co-conspirator Margaret Cole, the adoption agency’s Executive Director, learned that clients of the adoption agency determined they could not care for one of the two Polish children they were set to adopt, Parris and her co-conspirator took steps to transfer the Polish child to Parris’s relatives, who were not eligible for intercountry adoption. In her plea agreement, Parris also admitted that after the child was injured and hospitalized, Parris agreed with her co-conspirator to conceal their improper conduct from the U.S. State Department in an attempt to continue profiting from these adoptions.

Parris pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and commit visa fraud in connection with the Uganda scheme, and conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with the Poland scheme. She is scheduled to be sentenced on March 9, 2022. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

Trial against Cole is scheduled to commence on Feb. 7, 2022. Mirembe remains at large.

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan for the Northern District of Ohio; and Acting Assistant Director Jay Greenberg of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division made the announcement.

If you believe you are a victim of this offense, please visit https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/victim-witness-program or call (888) 549-3945.

The FBI’s Cleveland Field Office is investigating the case. 

Trial Attorneys Jason Manning and Alexander Kramer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice of the Northern District of Ohio are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs assisted in the investigation.

The Fraud Section has lead responsibility for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and Cole and Mirembe are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.Topic(s): Foreign Corruption Component(s): Criminal DivisionCriminal – Criminal Fraud SectionUSAO – Ohio, Northern Press Release Number: 21-1140 Updated November 17, 2021

End of Press Release

Additional Information:

The Justice Department press release “Three Individuals Charged with Arranging Adoptions from Uganda and Poland Through Bribery and Fraud” from the August 2020 indictment is here.

I wrote about the August 2020 indictment here.

In 2016, the U.S. State Department debarred European Adoption Consultants for three years.

A 2004 article from Cleveland Magazine about Margaret Cole, “Families in Crisis: When Foreign Adoptions Go Wrong,” is here.

May justice prevail.

Adoption Agency Staff of “European Adoption Consultants” Charged By Federal Grand Jury With Fraud, More


A federal grand jury today charged Margaret Cole, Robin Langoria, and other employees of European Adoption Consultants (EAC) with fraud, money laundering and bribery in connections with adoptions from Uganda and Poland.

EAC had been granted accreditation under the Hague Convention for Inter-Country Adoptions by the Council on Accreditation. That accreditation is considered a sort of gold standard in the realm of international adoption agencies: it involves a substantial amount of time and work and fees to receive.

In 2015, EAC had a complaint lodged against it for a case in China. In December 2016, the State Department debarred EAC, and their Hague accreditation status was revoked. The IAMME website (IAMME became the sole Hague Convention accreditor in 2018) states this: “Nature of the Substantiated Violations: The Department of State temporarily debarred adoption service provider, European Adoption Consultants, Inc. (EAC) from accreditation on December 16, 2016, for a period of three years.  As a result of this temporary debarment, EAC’s accreditation has been cancelled and it must immediately cease to provide all adoption services in connection with intercountry adoptions.

The Department found substantial evidence that the agency is out of compliance with the standards in subpart F of the accreditation regulations, and evidence of a pattern of serious, willful, or grossly negligent failure to comply with the standards and of aggravating circumstances indicating that continued accreditation of EAC would not be in the best interests of the children and families concerned.”

The FBI raided EAC in 2017, and the agency closed. Cole had founded EAC in 1991.

Grand jury documents were unsealed today in Ohio, where EAC was located. EAC had worked in adoptions in Bulgaria, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Honduras, India, Panama, Tanzania, and Ukraine, in addition to Uganda and Poland.

It’s impossible to know how much heartache has happened to families and children as a result of this.

Here is the full article from Cleveland.com.

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.