A woman who helped arrange adoptions for an Ohio-based agency pleaded guilty last week to bribing court officials in Uganda and defrauding adoptive parents and the U.S. State Department.
Robin Longoria, 58, of Mansfield, Texas, pleaded guilty in federal court in Ohio to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to commit wire and visa fraud.
Her sentencing date hasn’t been set. She was released on a $20,000 bond.
Longoria and others bribed court registrars and judges in Uganda who would be “adoption-friendly” to her agency’s U.S. clients. She paid the bribes through an agent, diguised as “fees, and hid the bribes from the clients.
Longoria also helped create false documents used to mislead the U.S. State Department in its visa determinations for the Ugandan children being adopted.
“The defendant compromised protections for vulnerable Ugandan children and undermined the United States’ visa screening process,” the DOJ’s Brian Benczkowski said.
Eric Smith from the FBI’s Cleveland office said, “We are pleased Ms. Longoria has accepted responsibility for her role in facilitating an international adoption scam.”
The DOJ didn’t name the adoption agency Longoria worked for or provide any details about the Uganda agent.
But a local report from Ohio said the FBI has been investigating a now-closed non-profit agency called European Adoption Consultants that was based near Cleveland.
In late 2016, the State Department debarred the agency for three years.
The FBI raided the agency’s offices in February 2017.
It had operated adoption programs in Bulgaria, China, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Honduras, India, Panama, Poland, Tanzania, Uganda, and Ukraine.
The Uganda program started in 2012 and Longoria managed it.
An Ugandan lawyer worked with European Adoption Consultants and represented its clients in local court proceedings. The lawyer also helped the clients apply to the State Department for U.S. visas for the children.
“The agency and the attorney facilitated the adoption of more than 30 Ugandan children by U.S. clients between 2013 and 2016, and the agency received more than $800,000 from the clients,” the report said. Some clients paid more than $10,000.
When the State Department debarred European Adoption Consultants, it had 300 clients at various stages of the adoption process.
After receiving more than 70 complaints, the Ohio attorney general sued European Adoption Consultants in mid 2017. The AG alleged that the agency misled clients and took payment for adoption services it never performed.
European Adoption Consultants settled the action by agreeing to dissolve and reimburse $260,000 to clients.
Richard L. Cassin is editor at large of the FCPA Blog.