AFRICAN ADOPTION FRAUD

The information is being brought to my readers via another friend. The State Department issued a warning against adopting in South Africa in January of 2008.

Here is the link for that warning. Here is the warning itself.

DISCLAIMER: The following is intended as a very general guide to assist U.S. citizens who plan to adopt a child from a foreign country and apply for an immigrant visa for the child to come to the United States. Two sets of laws are particularly relevant: 1) the laws of the child’s country of birth govern all activity in that country including the adoptability of individual children as well as the adoption of children in country in general; and 2) U.S. Federal immigration law governs the immigration of the child to the United States.

The information in this flyer relating to the legal requirements of specific foreign countries is based on public sources and our current understanding. It does not necessarily reflect the actual state of the laws of a child’s country of birth and is provided for general information only. Moreover, U.S. immigration law, including regulations and interpretation, changes from time to time. This flyer reflects our current understanding of the law as of this date and is not legally authoritative. Questions involving foreign and U.S. immigration laws and legal interpretation should be addressed respectively to qualified foreign or U.S. legal counsel.

PLEASE NOTE: South African law recognizes two kinds of adoptions by foreigners: 1) those completed by foreign residents of South Africa, and 2) international adoptions where foreigners are given children to adopt in their home country. The first category requires the foreigners to be resident for five years in South Africa and the adoptions are handled by an accredited agency and finalized by the Department of Social Development. The second category is only available to citizens of countries with a working agreement between them and South Africa. At this time, the United States does not have a working agreement of this type.

There are two stories that are very relevant to the issue.

The first one is from Namibia on the All Africa.com webpage. Here is the link.

Here is the story.

Zambia Smashes Adoption Scam

The Namibian (Windhoek)

NEWS
13 August 2007
Posted to the web 13 August 2007
Lusaka

The Zambian government has smashed a scam in which children under the age of 10 are adopted and flown out of Zambia without following proper procedures.

Community and Social Welfare Minister, Catherine Namugala said Benson Njovu, aged 10, Baby Joe Moses, eight months, and Terry Tembo, one year and eight months, have since been withdrawn from some American nationals because the adoption was not legally binding. Namugala said that unconfirmed reports indicated that over 17 children had already been adopted and taken out of the country without the consent of the government and her ministry was trying to establish people behind the scam.

Namugala, who paid a surprise visit to one of the orphanages, Samaritan Community, in Lusaka’s Chilanga Township, said the government was determined to stop such illegal acts and protect citizens.

She emphasised that her ministry was not against the adoption of children but the manner in which it was done and appealed to those wishing to adopt children to follow the right procedure.

The minister said it was shocking that some orphanages were busy arranging the adoption of children at a fee disregarding the laws of the land.

She expressed disappointment that foster parents were insisting on adopting only children infected with HIV-AIDS.

Namugala said that the foster parents also claimed to have paid about US$3 650 to get the children and that they did not even have committal orders from the courts.

She said the government was interested in knowing the background of those who adopted children to prevent them from being mistreated.

She said the Faithful Charity Agency, whose Head office was in the US and was behind the adoption of children from Zambia under a David Sichinga, was illegal because it was not registered and had no mandate to act on behalf of the government.

She said orphanages, which were partners in taking care of orphaned children, should assist the government in protecting them instead of giving them away to people whose background was questionable.

She warned those in habit of adopting children illegally to be on the look-out as the law would soon visit them and that they should not complain of vicitimisation once caught.

The minister also said she was not too happy with the environment in which the children were being looked after and appealed to orphanages to work towards improving sanitary conditions.

But Samaritan Community Orphanage proprietor Bishop John Jere, where one orphan was adopted from, claimed that he was not aware there were plans to take the boy out of Zambia.

Bishop Jere, who was at pains to explain to the minister and her entourage, said he was a patriotic Zambian who would want to see that the law was applied and that at no time did he involve himself in such acts.

He further asked the minister to check with the American Embassy to track down those who could have been flown out of Zambia.

Here is another story that is just as shocking. Here is the link and the story.

Adoption scam uses Mendham nun’s name

R.I. couple thought baby girl from Cameroon was going to join their family

By Michael Daigle
Daily Record

Police in Cameroon have launched an investigation into an Internet adoption scam that has left a Mendham nun worried about the reputation of a worthy charity — and a Rhode Island couple out $7,000.

Sister Mary Lynne, of the Community of St. John Baptist, an Episcopal convent in Mendham, found that her name and photograph were used without her knowledge in a series of e-mails promoting the adoption of children from an orphanage in Cameroon.

The orphanage is real, and Sister Mary Lynne has been photographed working there. But the orphanage doesn’t offer children for adoption.

The nun now is worried about the reputation of the orphanage, whose photos also were used without its knowledge or permission. Several churches in the Morris County area raise funds for the facility.

Michael and Grace Robinson of Warwick, R.I., received the e-mails and, hoping to adopt a child, paid $7,000 in what turned out to be a swindle.

“We wanted to adopt,” Grace Robinson said in a recent interview. “We have two children, ages 2 and 5, and wanted to help an orphan, but not spend $28,000 to $30,000. We were looking for a different way, and we used the Internet.”

During a blitz of e-mails that appeared authentic, the couple sent numerous small payments over six or seven weeks in the form of money orders, which means that whoever cashed them can’t be traced.

Around the time the Robinsons notified authorities about the scam earlier this month, the scammers decided to use the identifies of some new folks for their phony testimonials: Michael and Grace Robinson. Those e-mails were received by a Texas family, who contacted the Rhode Island couple. They are easy to find because Michael Robinson is the youth pastor at the Cranston Christian Fellowship — much like the Robinsons had contacted Sister Mary Lynne in late February.

“We were horrified,” Grace Robinson said. “Imagine having to defend yourself over something that you did not do.”

They all find themselves mentioned in an endless web of e-mails sent by someone pretending to be them, or lawyers and nannies. The scam swirls through the Internet on Web sites and in Internet advertisements, and is the subject of strong warnings on the Web site of the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon.

“These scams target foreigners worldwide, posing risks of both financial loss and personal danger to their victims. Scams are often initiated by credit card use, through telephone calls, from Internet cafes in Cameroon and from unsolicited faxes, letters and e-mails,” the warning says.

It continues, “Recently many Americans have become victims of Cameroonian con-men/women offering to place their children for adoption through the Internet. Americans should be very cautious about sending money or traveling to Cameroon to adopt a child from an orphanage they have heard about through e-mails.”

The Robinsons were led to believe they were sharing information with Sister Mary Lynne, identified as a director of the Good Shepherd Home in Bamenda, Cameroon.

Instead, Sister Mary Lynne explained, the Robinsons were sharing personal information with someone using her name and photographs without her authorization, and misrepresenting the nature of the mission of Good Shepherd Home.

“Good Shepherd does not offer adoptions,” she said in a recent interview.

The home in Bamenda takes orphans off the streets and gives them a place to live, attend classes or learn a trade, she said.

Sister Mary Lynne said the photos used in the scheme show her at the orphanage, which she visits annually.

After the nuns of St. John Baptist heard about the scam from the Robinsons, convent officials determined that the photos were copied from a computer used at the Good Shepherd Home, and recognized a telephone number in one of the many e-mails.

They sent a report to police in Cameroon, who told them recently that a potential suspect was identified — someone who had performed some computer repairs for the orphanage — but was believed to have left Bamenda.

Sister Mary Lynne said there is a great need for the services offered by Good Shepherd Home, which serves local children whose parents have died in the AIDS epidemic sweeping Cameroon. The Canadian watchdog group International Children Awareness reported that in sub-Saharan Africa more than 12 million children have been orphaned by AIDS, including more than 200,000 children in Cameroon.

Sister Mary Lynne was one of a group of Morris County church members who traveled to the home last year to help with the construction of a water system. The Good Shepherd Home has been assisted financially by churches in Morristown, Summit, Livingston and Essex Fells, among others.

Robinson said she and her husband started what they thought was an adoption process in mid-January. The first letter she received, Robinson said, began, “My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ. May the Good Lord fill your hearts with joy this New Year 2008.”

It is signed by “Sr. Mary Lynne Good Shepherd Home Orphanage.”

The e-mailed letter described tight quarters at the orphanage and said, “We can’t really support the population again … I was wondering if you can let me know whether you will be interested in adopting a baby.”

That same letter or one with similar wording appeared on online classified Web pages aimed at audiences in England, Spanish-speaking countries and Eastern Europe, among others. It has been identified by authorities as the come-on letter in a scheme.

Believing the offer was real, Robinson said, she and her husband checked the Web site of the U.S. Embassy in Cameroon and found a list of documents that were needed for an adoption and the name of an attorney.

“We followed that list and sent every document,” she said.

Looking back, Robinson said, it was clear that the job of the first woman she spoke with was to sell them on the notion of a foreign adoption, and then to hand them off to a person who would close the deal.

They were directed to what they thought was the Good Shepherd Home and were sent photos.

“We investigated as well as we could and it seemed authentic,” she said. “How do you avoid a scam? We did everything we could and had no reason not to believe. We are faithful, decent people.”

The family received a message on Feb. 8 from the person claiming to be Sister Mary Lynne, saying that a judge in Cameroon had approved the adoption.

“We got the adoption and were laughing and filled with joy,” Robinson recalled.

Then, she said, they had trouble getting through to their contacts, including the attorney, to find out when their baby would arrive.

Finally someone gave them flight information. On Feb. 24 they drove to Logan Airport in Boston to meet a social worker who was supposed to have their new child, Trinity Amorette Robinson, whose name appears on an official-looking certificate of adoption they received. In photographs she appears as a chubby-cheeked, smiling white child.

Robinson said they sat in the Air France terminal for five hours. Her husband checked often to see whether a woman and a baby had deplaned. None did.

Then they went home.

“We’ve been gypped. It’s brutal and cruel,” Robinson said.

After the swindle was reported, the couple received an e-mail from someone who identified himself as being in charge of an investigation into the scam in Cameroon, asking for all the documents and photos they had received. But the Robinsons now are more cautious. At first they did not answer because of some questionable wording in the message.

“We think it’s the scammers,” Grace Robinson said.

She again contacted the nuns at St. John Baptist, who had their friends at the orphanage check with authorities there. They learned that the e-mail was not from Cameroonian police. Police suggested that the Robinsons keep up the correspondence, though, to get clues to the scammers’ identities.

That’s what the Robinsons are doing. They say they’re also compiling a report to send to the FBI.

Something has got to give in the adoption industry. What is really sad is that these situations happen in the United States as well.


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