IAG Director Pleads Guilty to Adoption Fraud

Nearly a year ago the Department of Justice indicted four United States employees of International Adoption Guides (IAG) for fraud and bribery. Last summer the former director of Ethiopia programs for the agency, Alisa Bivens, pled guilty.

Regarding Bivens’ guilty plea, the Department of Justice sent out a press release stating, “In entering her guilty plea, Bivens also admitted that she and others paid bribes to two Ethiopian officials so that those officials would help with the fraudulent adoptions. The first of these two foreign officials, an audiologist and teacher at a government school, accepted money and other valuables in exchange for providing non-public medical information and social history information for potential adoptees to the conspirators. The second foreign official, the head of a regional ministry for women’s and children’s affairs, received money and all-expenses-paid travel in exchange for approving IAG’s applications for intercountry adoptions and for ignoring IAG’s failure to maintain a properly licensed adoption facility. Sentencing for Bivens will be scheduled at a later date.”

With this plea, it is possible that Bivens’ punishment may be minimal. As it is, the maximum punishment for conspiring to defraud the U.S. Government is just five years in prison and a “fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value gained or lost,” according to the press release last February.

This is appalling considering the pain, heartache, and disruption that fraudulent adoptions cause to individuals and families.

Just this month James Harding, the program director for IAG, pled guilty to the same charges for adoptions in 2008 and 2009. In his guilty plea, Harding admitted to submitting false documents to the State Department, providing fraudulent documents about children’s eligibility for adoption, and paying bribes to Ethiopian officials.

The third indicted staff member, Mary Mooney, will be tried early this year. The fourth staff member (IAG program director in Ethiopia, Haile Mekonnen) is still in Ethiopia.

Although it appears justice will be served for these high-ranking individuals who, clearly, put money ahead of human rights, even justice cannot undo the trauma caused to children and families because of their greed.