Robin Longoria 58, of Mansfield Texas, Unites States of America (USA) last week pleaded guilty to facilitating illegal adoptions of children through bribing Ugandan High Court Judges.
On August 29, Longoria pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violation of the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by committing wire and visa fraud.
According to court documents released by the U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Ohio, Longoria worked as an employee of an unnamed International adoption agency in Strongsville, Ohio. The adoption agency facilitated inter-country adoptions from Uganda for prospective adoptive parents in the United States.
Court heard that from 2013 to 2016, Longoria worked with an unnamed Ugandan attorney to pay bribes to Ugandan government to get the officials to use their positions to assist in facilitating adoptions of Ugandan children for American clients.
Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in Uganda's Central adoption authority oversees the probation and social welfare officers assigned to magistrate's courts.
Only children who are declared legally orphaned or abandoned by a judge at the end of the referral process are available for adoption. However, Longoria admitted to paying bribes to Ugandan probation officers to influence them to issue favourable probation reports - recommending that a particular child be placed into an orphanage.
Further, she also admitted of making payments to court registrars to influence them to assign particular cases to individual justices of the High court who were deemed to be adoption-friendly. She also admitted to bribing Ugandan High court judges to influence them to issue favourable guardianship orders to the adoption agency's clients.
The bribery scheme saw more than 30 Ugandan children adopted by American citizens for which the adoption charged more than $800,000 (about Shs 3 billion) in fees to the clients. They paid bribes were concealed from the adopting parents.
"The defendant compromised protections for vulnerable Ugandan children and undermined the United Statesvisa screening process," said assistant attorney general Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department's Criminal Division.
"This defendant has admitted to playing a part in a conspiracy in which Judges and other court officials in Africa were paid bribes in the adoption process. We are committed to pursuing justice for the adoptive parents and for all parties involved," said U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman of the Northern District of Ohio.
She added, "while adoptive families were financially and emotionally invested in the welfare of their future child, misrepresentations were made by Ms Longoria and others to disguise bribe payments made to court officials in Uganda. We are pleased Ms Longoria has accepted responsibility for her role in facilitating an international adoption scam," said Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith of the FBI's Cleveland Field Office.
In her response, Longoria admitted that she and her co-conspirators agreed to create false documents for submission to the U.S. State Department to mislead in its adjudication of visa applications for the Ugandan children being considered for adoption.
Longoria is scheduled to be sentenced on January 8, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Christopher A. Boyko.
Ministry of Gender officials was not readily available for comments at the time of publishing this report.
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