Strongsville woman among 3 indicted in international criminal adoption scheme

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STRONGSVILLE, Ohio (WJW) — Three women, including one from Strongsville, have been indicted for allegedly arranging adoptions of Ugandan and Polish children through bribery and fraud.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice, the women are accused of bribing Ugandan officials and defrauding U.S. adoptive parents, U.S. authorities and a Polish regulatory authority.

Margaret Cole, 73, of Strongsville; Debra Parris, 68, of Texas; and Dorah Mirembe, 41, of Uganda, were charged in a 13-count indictment.

“The defendants allegedly resorted to bribery and fraud to engage in an international criminal adoption scheme that took children from their home countries in Uganda and Poland without properly determining whether they were actually orphaned.  The defendants sought to profit from their alleged criminal activity at the expense of families and  vulnerable children,”Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division said in the release. “These charges clearly show that the Department of Justice is committed to protecting children worldwide, including those involved in the international adoption process.”

The indictment alleges that in the Uganda scheme, Parris and Mirembe, along with others, paid bribes to Ugandan officials to corruptly procure the adoption of Ugandan children by families in the U.S. including the adoption of children who were not properly determined to be orphaned and who had to be ultimately returned to their birth parents.

Parris and Mirembe allegedly paid bribes to social welfare workers in exchange for them issuing welfare reports recommending certain children be placed into orphanages without first enduring they were actually orphaned or that putting them up for adoption was in the children’s best interests.

They also allegedly paid bribes to Ugandan magistrate judges and court registrars as part of the scheme.

The co-conspirators and the entities they worked for received more than $900,000 in connection with the adoptions.

The indictment alleges that in the Poland scheme after clients of their adoption agency determined they could not care for one of the two Polish children they were set to adopt, Cole and Parris transferred the child to Parris’s relatives, who were not eligible for intercountry adoption and one of whom had a criminal arrest record.

After the child was physically abused, Cole and Parris took steps to conceal their improper conduct.

“As a result of this alleged conduct, prospective parents were deceived, hundreds of thousands of dollars were misused and innocent children were displaced from their homes,” said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman, of the Northern District of Ohio.  

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