It’s a heartbreaking scam – couples paid thousands of dollars with the promise they would become parents, only to be left without a baby.
A Saginaw County woman is facing 21 months in prison for scamming couples who believed they were going to adopt babies.
In federal court in Detroit, 29-year-old Enhelica Wiggins admitted to faking her own pregnancy and other acts of deception. She collected more than $266,000 in the process, including $63,000 from a family in Alma.
Wiggins pleaded guilty to wire fraud.
An accomplice from Macomb County will be sentenced in late March.
Judge Barbara Meter has presided over many adoptions.
“It is one of the most joyous events in my courtroom,” Meter said.
So when she learns about adoption fraud, it upsets her.
“That’s very sad. It’s very distressing. That should not happen to people,” Meter said.
Meter gave advice to help people looking to adopt avoid being scammed.
“Are you dealing with a licensed adopting agency? And are you dealing with a licensed attorney,” Meter said.
Christopher Swartz is a licensed attorney.
“There’s nothing wrong with them trying to find birth parents on their own, but once they do find those birth parents, they need to establish the legal ties to make sure everything flows legally,” Swartz said.
Swartz specializes in adoption law.
“Our red flags go up right off the bat when a birth mother’s first concern is ‘I need money,’” Swartz said.
Swartz said he makes sure if any money is exchanged for things like living expenses, it goes through the proper channels along with receipts.
Swartz also said a face-to-face meeting with a birth mother increases the chance an adoption will go smoothly.
“You might as well meet beforehand and look each other in the eye, and like with this adoption fraud case that went through, make sure she’s actually pregnant,” Swartz said.
As for Meter, she said people should not be afraid to adopt as long as they do their homework.
“It is an involved process, but it certainly is not a process that people should shy away from if you want to adopt a child,” Meter said.