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Texas woman admits Uganda adoption fraud, bribes plot

Judgment follows Guardian investigation into case of boy who was adopted by American couple without parents’ knowledge

Judgment follows Guardian investigation into case of boy who was adopted by American couple without parents’ knowledge

WASHINGTON —A woman from the US state of Texas has pleaded guilty to schemes to organize the adoption of children from Uganda and Poland into the United States by means of bribery and fraud, the Justice Department said.

“A Texas woman who was a program manager at an Ohio-based international adoption agency pleaded guilty today in the Northern District of Ohio to schemes to procure adoptions of Ugandan and Polish children by bribing Ugandan officials and defrauding US authorities,” the Justice Department said in a release on Wednesday.

According to court documents, Debra Parris, 69, of Lake Dallas, engaged in a scheme with others to bribe Ugandan officials to procure adoptions of Ugandan children by families in the United States, the release said.

“In her plea agreement, Parris also admitted that she continued to direct the adoption agency’s clients to work with her alleged co-conspirator Dorah Mirembe, after knowing that Mirembe caused clients of the adoption agency to provide false information to the Department of State,” the release added.

Parris pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and commit visa fraud in connection with the Uganda scheme and conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with the Poland scheme. She is scheduled to be sentenced on March 9, 2022, according to the release.

In August 2020,  the US imposed financial sanctions and visa restrictions on two Ugandan judges and two lawyers over their part in an international adoption scam involving more than 30 children.

Judges Moses Mukiibi and Wilson Musalu Musene, and lawyers Dorah Mirembe and Patrick Ecobu, facilitated a network organising adoptions of Ugandan children, according to the US State Department.

“Together, these individuals engaged in corruption to arrange the adoption of Ugandan children by unwitting parents in the United States,” the statement said.

The adoptions were processed through European Adoption Consultants (EAC), a now defunct Ohio-based adoption agency.

Along with Mirembe, two American employees of the company, Margaret Cole and Debra Parris, were charged with arranging adoptions through bribery and fraud in Uganda and Poland.

According to the indictment, between 2013 and 2016 the EAC procured the adoption of more than 30 Ugandan children for US clients, in collaboration with Mirembe.

The adoption agency received more than $900,000 (£680,000) from these clients, and Mirembe more than $430,000, as well as tens of thousands of dollars directly from EAC’s clients for representing them in Uganda.

In August 2019, another employee of EAC, Robin Longoria, pleaded guilty to bribing Ugandan officials and defrauding US adoptive parents and the US Department of State.

A US State Department statement said Mirembe had promised vulnerable Ugandan families their children would go to schools in Kampala, but instead they were taken to an unlicensed children’s home for adoption by American families.

Mirembe and Ecobu then facilitated bribes to Ugandan judges and other government officials, including judges Mukiibi and Musene.

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