Pro tip for aspiring adoption fraudsters: Don’t email your fake USCIS documents!

There are many troubling specifics in this indictment of IAG, the South Carolina adoption agency working in Ethiopia until a few months ago.

I can’t begin to plumb the apparent recruitment of deaf children for adoption. There’s enough detail to let me picture the house calls, on Ethiopian families, to pitch them on placing their children–with US families who have been told the kids are orphaned.

Of course this brings to mind Immanuel Williams*, a deaf child adopted by abusive parents who killed his adoptive sister. Was he, too, removed from a government school in Ethiopia, then placed with the (abusive) adoptive family on fraudulent documents erasing his living parent(s)?

Maybe it wasn’t this specific conspiracy that resulted in his adoption, but instead a similar scheme run by another US agency. Maybe his paperwork was true and he had been left at the orphanage that created his adoption file. Maybe not. This is why child laundering is wrong, in a nutshell.

Meanwhile, what can we learn from the indictment?

Faking documents to file with Ethiopian and US courts: not a good idea. Documenting how easy it is to fake such documents: really bad idea. It seems possible that everything illegal and unethical described in this indictment might have been gotten away with, but for the incredibly bad judgment shown by one of the conspirators. Emailing a co-worker to describe his brilliant idea for jumping through the hoops–making up USCIS-required documents approving adoptive families–may have been the undoing of the scheme.

Or maybe one of the conspirators, or a cooperating witness, or one of the defrauded families, told the wrong person. Where “wrong person”=”someone with a functioning sense of ethics”.

*This link leads to a narrative of one day in the trial of Larry and Carri Williams, adoptive parents who saw a video at church of the deaf orphans in Ethiopia and decided to adopt one. Carri happened to know ASL (American Sign Language). Needless to say, their trial for murder (of the other, hearing, child they adopted along with Immanuel) is not easy to read about, even in the surprisingly gentle words of the inestimable Maureen McCauley Evans.

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