In a fact pattern believed to be a first in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act history, last week the DOJ announced that Robin Longoria (an individual who managed aspects of an international program at an Ohio-based adoption agency) pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and to commit wire fraud and visa fraud “for her role in a scheme to corruptly facilitate adoptions of Ugandan children through bribing Ugandan officials and defrauding U.S. adoptive parents and the U.S. Department of State.”
According to this media report, the adoption agency is now defunct European Adoption Consultants.
As alleged in this criminal information:
“In or around 2012, Adoption Agency began to establish a program to facilitate adoptions of Ugandan children by prospective adoptive parents in the United States. From at least 2012 to in or around 2016, Defendant’s responsibilities at Adoption Agency included managing aspects of Adoption Agency’s adoption program in Uganda in coordination with Adoption Agency Manager 1 [described as a U.S. citizen and employee of Adoption Agency] and others.
In or around 2013, Adoption Agency entered into an agreement with Ugandan Agent 1 [described as a Ugandan citizen and attorney who served as Adoption Agency’s foreign supervised provider of adoption services in Uganda], an attorney based in Kampala, Uganda, to provide adoption-related services to Adoption Agency. From in or around 2013 to in or around 2016, Adoption Agency directed its clients in its Uganda program to hire Ugandan Agent 1 as their attorney for adoption-related proceedings. Ugandan Agent 1, among other things, identified children for potential adoption by Adoption Agency’s clients; represented Adoption Agency’s clients in Ugandan court proceedings, including guardianship proceedings in the High Court of Uganda; and assisted Adoption Agency’s clients in applying to the United States Department of State (the “State Department”) for visas for the children they intended to adopt.
From in or around 2013 through in or around 2016, Adoption Agency, in collaboration with Ugandan Agent 1, facilitated the adoption of more than 30 Ugandan children by U.S. clients. Adoption Agency received more than $800,000 from these clients, including fees charged to the clients that were described as “Foreign Program Fees.” Adoption Agency’s clients in the Uganda program often paid more than $10,000 each in Foreign Program Fees.
From in or around 2013 through in or around 2016, Ugandan Agent 1 caused bribes to be paid to Ugandan Government Officials [described as including certain Justices of the High Court of Uganda who acted in their official capacities on behalf of a foreign government in exercising responsibilities related to the care of orphan children] for the purpose of influencing them to misuse their official positions by taking actions that assisted Ugandan Agent 1 and Adoption Agency in facilitating adoptions. These bribes included, but were not limited to: (1) bribes to probation officers to influence them to issue favorable probation reports recommending that a particular child be placed into an orphanage; (2) bribes to court registrars to influence them to assign particular cases to “adoption-friendly” Ugandan Judges; and (3) bribes to Ugandan Judges to influence them to issue favorable guardianship orders to Adoption Agency’s clients.
Ugandan Agent 1 and her staff regularly sent emails to Defendant and Adoption Agency Manager 1 requesting payment for their services. These emails at times included requests for money to fund bribes to Ugandan government officials. Bribe payments were not explicitly described as bribes but, rather, as “fees” or other types of costs. For example, Ugandan Agent 1 at times described bribes to court registrars as “court filing fees” and bribes to Ugandan Judges as “judge’s fees.” Individual bribes were in the amount of hundreds of U.S dollars or more. Defendant and others caused Adoption Agency to wire funds to Ugandan Agent 1 knowing that the funds would be used, at least in part, to pay bribes to Ugandan government officials.
Adoption Agency undertook to conceal these bribes from its clients. Specifically, Defendant assisted Adoption Agency Manager 1 in concealing from Adoption Agency’s clients information regarding how Adoption Agency and Ugandan Agent 1 spent client funds, including the Foreign Program Fees. For example, in or about September 2016, an Adoption Agency client emailed Defendant and others requesting “a breakdown of exactly what the foreign program fees covered.” Defendant did not provide the requested information, and instead falsely wrote to the client, “[w]e do not have more detailed information.”
A prospective adoptive parent who intends to bring a Ugandan child into the United States for adoption typically must obtain an IR4 visa for the child from the State Department. Defendant, Adoption Agency Manager 1, Ugandan Agent 1 and others also caused Adoption Agency’s clients to provide false information to the State Department for the purpose of misleading the State· Department in its adjudication of these visa applications.
In or about May 2015, Defendant and Adoption Agency Manager 1 received an email from Ugandan Agent 1 telling them to create false documents for a particular Adoption Agency client because otherwise “it will be problematic at embassy.” Defendant then created documents falsely representing the date upon which Adoption Agency had referred the Ugandan child at issue to the client-a fact that is significant to the State Department in its adjudication of IR4 visa applications. Defendant provided the false documents to Adoption Agency’s client so that the client would submit them to the State Department in the client’s visa application.”
Based on the above, the information charges one count of conspiring to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions and to commit wire fraud and visa fraud.
In the DOJ’s release, Assistant Attorney General Brian Benczkowski stated:
“The defendant compromised protections for vulnerable Ugandan children and undermined the United States’ visa screening process. [This] plea ensures that she is held accountable for the far-reaching consequences of her corrupt conduct.”
U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman of the Northern District of Ohio stated:
“This defendant has admitted to playing a part in a conspiracy in which judges and other court officials in Africa were paid bribes to corrupt the adoption process. We are committed to pursuing justice for the adoptive parents and for all parties involved.”
Special Agent in Charge Eric Smith of the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office stated:
“While adoptive families were financially and emotionally invested in the welfare of their future child, misrepresentations were made by Ms. Longoria and others to disguise bribe payments made to court officials in Uganda. We are pleased Ms. Longoria has accepted responsibility for her role in facilitating an international adoption scam.”
See here for additional coverage.
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