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An adoption agency has stoked anguish among dozens of American families who may have unwittingly received Samoan children who were actually never orphans. Maureen Maher reports.
CBS) CBS News will present, "The Lost Children," a "48 Hours" special, on Saturday, Dec. 12 at 10 p.m. ET/PT - the culmination of a two-year investigation by "48 Hours" into one of the largest foreign adoption scams in U.S. history.
Anchored by "48 Hours" correspondent Maureen Maher, who herself was adopted, "The Lost Children" profiles three families - Patti Sawyer, Mike and Kari Nyberg, and Elizabeth and Gary Muenzler - who adopted children from the South Pacific island of Samoa through the Utah-based Focus On Children adoption agency, only to face a heartbreaking decision years later.
According to a March 1, 2007 press release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), FOC orchestrated the adoption of more than eighty Samoan children, aged infancy to twelve years,11 by U.S. families, between March 2002 and March 2005. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) said it launched the investigation after an immigration official “saw something that didn’t add up, suspected fraud, and kept digging,” said Robert Mather, a field officer director for USCIS in Salt Lake City.
“a scheme that treated children as little more than a commodity.” The defendants, he said, “not only compromised the integrity of our immigration system, they also defrauded numerous well-meaning parents who wanted nothing more than to provide the best possible life for these children.”15
The withdrawal of forces from Vietnam was drawing to a conclusion in April 1975 when the Australian Government made a decision to evacuate some war orphans from the vicinity of Saigon before they could fall into the path of the advancing North Vietnamese troops. Planning for the evacuation proceeded rapidly. Arrangements were being made for the Australian adoptions of the orphans whilst a Qantas 747 was chartered to convey the orphans from Bangkok in Thailand to Melbourne under medical evacuation - medivac - conditions.
Two C-130 Hercules of the RAAF's No 37 Squadron were tasked to uplift the orphans from Saigon to Bangkok, considering the hazardous airspace to be penetrated around Saigon. Another C-130 was to be used to fly some of the nurses from Bangkok to Saigon. The plans were to be kept confidential for security reasons until a formal announcement of the operation was made by the Prime Minister immediately preceding the evacuation.
n. Child laundering is a more precise term that refers to the stealing of children who are then sold to adoptive parents as legitimate "orphans." Often the pretense is that the child's parents are dead when in fact the child's parents are still alive. In some cases the children are stolen from the home; in other cases the children are left at orphanages for temporary care or schools for education. These then sell the children using false papers. In some cases the parents may even sell the children
.  This trafficking can occur anywhere but is most prominent in poorly regulated countries or where local corruption is a factor. Currently, Guatemala, one of the top sources of adopted children, is being investigated for this sort of corruption. While most international adoptions are not tainted by child trafficking, some problems do exist. Receiving nations such as the United States have implemented safeguards to ensure that adopted children are in fact legally available for adoption. Occasionally, the United States has suspended adoption from certain countries in order to investigate fraud and, where needed, require change from the sending country.
Richard Cross, the lead federal investigator for the prosecution of Lauryn Galindo for visa fraud and money laundering involved in Cambodian adoptions, estimated that most of the 800 adoptions Galindo facilitated were fraudulent--either based on fraudulent paperwork, coerced/induced/recruited relinquishments, babies bought, identities of the children switched, etc.
..... we enticed teenage girls, Khusiman (10) and Nabiran (12) from their houses in the name of offering decent jobs to the Santanagar area of Indian Capital city, New Delhi and later forced them to two pimps.
Although no substantiated figures exist, an estimated 15 000 Malian children have been “trafficked” to the cocoa plantations in the Ivory Coast.12.
300,000 children in the U.S. are at risk every year for commercial sexual exploitation. -U.S. Department of Justice
600,000 – 800,000 people are bought and sold across international borders each year; 50% are children, most are female. The majority of these victims are forced into the commercial sex trade. – U.S. Department of State, 2004, Trafficking in Persons Report, Washington, D.C.
An estimated 14,500 to 17,500 foreign nationals are trafficked into the United States each year. The number of U.S. citizens trafficked within the country is even higher, with an estimated 200,000 American children at risk for trafficking into the sex industry. – U.S Department of Justice Report to Congress from Attorney General John Ashcroft on U.S. Government Efforts to Combat Trafficking in Per
An estimated 2.5 million children, the majority of them girls, are sexually exploited in the multibillion dollar commercial sex industry – UNICEF
Investigators and researchers estimate the average predator in the U.S. can make more than $200,000 a year off one young girl. – NBC Report by Teri Williams