Defendants in Samoan adoption case must pay $100,000 to trust fund
Jul 27, 2009
A federal judge in Utah has ordered five operators and employees of the now-defunct Focus on Children adoption agency to contribute $100,000 to a trust fund that would allow Samoan children adopted by U.S. parents to connect with their birth families.
U.S. District Judge David Sam said the payments will serve both as punishment and a form of "restorative justice."
A 2007 indictment accused the five of tricking Samoan parents into giving up their children to the Wellsville-based group for adoption.
Prosecutors alleged relatives or friends in Samoa pushed the adoptions as a program that would educate children in the United States and return them at age 18.
Also, the adoptive parents in the United States were falsely told the adoptees were orphans or abandoned and that communication with the birth families was forbidden, according to the indictment.
The charges involved about 80 children, 66 of whom were placed with U.S. families.
[In explaining why he agreed to the plea bargain, U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett] Tolman said a drawn-out case focusing on punishment would have been "catastrophic" for the adoptive parents, birth parents and children. Tolman also said the birth parents reached by his office did not want prison time for those connected to FOC, and many had already forgiven them. A spokeswoman said the office discussed the plea deal with 25 of the Samoan families, many of which had placed three to five children with FOC....
In addition to contributing to the trust fund, the plea deal calls for Scott and Karen Banks to:
» Participate through their attorneys in a news conference to educate the public and others who might be engaged in similar conduct about their case.
» Meet with prosecutors and the State Department to provide information on FOC's adoption practices in Samoa, Guatemala and other countries to see if adjustments need to be made in U.S. laws.
» Relinquish all rights to adoption documents, photographs and other papers related to Samoan adoptions.