11 Dec 2008

Former adoption agency workers plead guilty to Samoan children adoption scandal

11:24 am on 11 December 2008

The former operators and employees of an adoption agency accused of fraud in connection with the adoptions of Samoan children are expected to enter guilty pleas in the case.

In a hearing in Salt Lake City, a prosecutor and defense attorneys for the Focus on Children defendants say they are working out the final details on plea deals for five of the seven defendants in the case.

The judge scheduled hearings for next month, when plea negotiations are expected to be complete.

Four defendants -- Karen Banks, Scott Banks, Coleen Bartlett, Karalee Thornock and Dan Wakefield, will enter guilty pleas

The U.S. government has been unable to extradite the other two defendants, Samoan citizens Tagaloa Ieti and Julie Tuiletufuga, who are still in Apia.

The lawyers involved in the case declined to give details of the plea agreements.

A federal grand jury in Salt Lake City issued a 135-count indictment in 2007 charging the defendants with fraud and immigration violations.

The indictment claimed the Focus on Children workers duped parents in Samoa into giving the agency their children, falsely saying they would return to them when they turned 18.

In addition, prospective adoptive parents in the United States allegedly were falsely told that the youngsters were orphans.