HOUSTON - Over the weekend we brought you the exclusive story of an Ohio woman who traveled hundreds of miles to Houston to adopt a baby, only to find out she’d been scammed. Since the story aired, other women have come forward saying the same thing has happened to them.
The story of Breanne Paquin touched thousands; she waited nearly five months to adopt a baby from a Houston woman, paid more than $10,000 in medical bills, and traveled all the way to Houston on Christmas Day, only to find out they’d been scammed.
"You’ve got to listen to the advice of counsel, but this is a family that wanted to believe so much," said Ed Lee, a Houston area family attorney who represented the Paquin’s throughout the process.
Lee says he warned the family when he saw red flags, like the birth mom refusing to sign a HIPPA form that would’ve allowed the Paquin’s payments to go directly to the doctor.
"Despite that, Breanne still felt comfortable by talking with the birth mother every single day, texting all the time," Lee said.
Since the story aired exclusively on FOX 26, we’ve had several other women come forward, saying they’ve been the victims of similar scams.
Cambria Mary is from Spring, Texas. A few years back, she went through an adoption agency and her family was matched with a mom nearly seven months pregnant.
"She did not want to meet in person, she only dealt with the social worker at the agency," Mary said.
She says they saw some other red flags throughout the process, like finding a baby registry for the birth mom online.
"If you are going to place your baby, you don’t have people go out and get you items for that baby," Mary said.
However, the agency followed up and told her it was a misunderstanding. After spending around $5,000 on medical bills, rent and clothes for the expectant mom, the adoption fell through and they believe she never had any intention of giving her baby up for adoption.
"We got the call from the agency saying, ‘we can’t get ahold of her, she’s refusing to tell us what hospital she’s at, she is not answering our calls, now she’s blocked us," Mary explained.
Ryan Hanlon is acting president of the National Council for Adoption, he says families have got to pay attention to those red flags. Things like asking for reimbursements directly or not wanting to meet in person are often a bad sign. He tells us the best way to avoid an adoption scam is to go through a licensed agency or professional, which is more costly than an independent adoption.
"This is not an area where we’re looking to save money; this is an area where we’re looking to make sure that things are done ethically," Hanlon said.
He tells FOX 26, that at the end of the day nothing is foolproof and a birth mother has every right to change her mind.
"We would want to distinguish between someone who changed her mind or still thinking through her options," Hanlon said.
However, if it’s proven that someone had the intent to defraud all along, "That’s a crime and that’s when law enforcement should be involved," Hanlon said.
Cambria Mary tells FOX 26 that less than 1-year after her family fell victim to an adoption scam, they successfully adopted a baby girl who is now 5-years old. She hopes this will serve as a symbol of hope to the Paquin family and other families who have been heartbroken by a similar scam
"It will happen for you and that one just wasn’t meant to be," said Mary.
The Paquin’s attorney says they have enough evidence to prove that the birth mother who strung them along for months had every intent to commit fraud and that there may be other victims out there.