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Corruption in international adoptions

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 & Related Documents


 Click to follow link United States Department of State
 Click to follow link Embassy of the United States
 Click to follow link Cambodia Orphanage Survey 2005
 Click to follow link Richard Cross
 Click to follow link David Smolin
 Click to follow link Lauryn Galindo investigation documents












“USCIS Announces the Status of Cambodian Adoptions,” February 11 2009, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services."

United States Department of State: Intercountry Adoption>Country Information>Cambodia

“Adoption Notice,” March 2010, U.S. Department of State.

Embassy of the United States: Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Immigrant Visas—Note on Cambodia Adoption Cases

Notes that on December 21, 2001, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (BCIS), announced an immediate suspension of the processing of adoption petitions for children from Cambodia.

“Cambodia Orphanage Survey 2005,” Holt International Children’s Services for USAID, September 2005.

Holt International’s study of 204 Cambodian child caring facilities in 24 provinces, commissioned by USAID. The study documented 8,270 children and findings include: Most children in care are over the age of 8 and therefore ineligible for international adoption. Only 132 children in institutions were one year old or younger. That is fewer babies than Westerners adopted every two months. The study concluded that many children had extended families that could care for them, if they were provided with the support to do so. Richard Cross US Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent Richard Cross, Rushton Lecture Series 2005 Presentation about Intercountry adoption from Cambodia, Samford University, Cumberland School of Law, April 15, 2005. Richard Cross investigated suspected baby selling in Cambodia in 2002. In this presentation, he outlines what he found. Dramatic details include the documentation of: baby-buying, kidnapping, bribery, visa fraud, ‘financial structuring’ or money laundering, and baby ‘stash houses’ in which children were treated as products and stored in filth. Cross explains in detail how children’s actual identities were “laundered,” making them appear to be abandoned orphans, so that profits could be made in international adoption. Explains that United States citizens that participate in baby buying cannot be prosecuted for human trafficking, because human trafficking, according to the law, is only concerned with trafficking for the sex trade or labor. Audio, video, and a full transcript prepared by a team of Schuster Institute student research assistants are all available here. Scroll to the bottom of the page.

Richard Cross, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agent’s presentation at Samford University, Cumberland School of Law, on April 15, 2005, about his investigation of Lauryn Galindo’s Cambodian operation which bought, defrauded, or kidnapped children from their birth families for the purpose of international adoption. Cross’s investigation led to Galindo being tried and jailed on federal charges.

From Cross's presentation: “I keep getting asked … why didn’t you charge her [Lauryn Galindo] with human trafficking? She couldn’t be charged with human traf-ficking; human trafficking only deals with sex or forced labor. You can get away with buying babies around the world as a United States citizen, it’s not a crime.”

To see or hear his presentation, or to read the transcript, click here and scroll to the bottom of the web page. 

David M. Smolin, “Child Laundering: How the Intercountry Adoption System Legitimizes and Incentivizes the Practices of Buying, Trafficking, Kidnapping, and Stealing Children,” ExpressO; Wayne Law Review 52.No. 1 (2006): 113-200.

Abstract: This article documents and analyzes a substantial incidence of “child laundering” within the intercountry adoption system. Child laundering occurs when children are taken illegally from birth families through child buying or kidnapping, and then ”laundered” through the adoption system as ”orphans” and then ”adoptees.” The article then proposes reforms to the intercountry adoption system that could substantially reduce the incidence of child laundering. NOTE: For Cambodia-specific information, see page 135.

Lauryn Galindo investigation: adoption fraud in Cambodia

Lauryn Galindo, a U.S. citizen and former hula dancer, collected more than $9 million for arranging international adoptions of Cambodian infants and toddlers. Between 1997 and 2001, Americans adopted 1,230 children from Cambodia; Galindo said she was involved in 800. In 2004, U.S. investigators alleged that Galindo paid Cambodian child finders to purchase, defraud, coerce, or steal children from their families, and that she conspired to create false identity documents for the children. In a plea bargain, Galindo was sentenced to eighteen months in prison, three years of supervised release, 300 hours of community service, and more than $60,000 in restitution. She was also required to forfeit the proceeds from her crime—her $1.4 million home and the value of her Jaguar. Below are documents related to the criminal investigation. 

On November 19, 2004, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released this summary of its investigation of Cambodian adoption fraud. 

ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) investigator Richard Cross’s search warrant for the investigation of Seattle International Adoption, the adoption agency owned by Galindo’s sister. Dated October 16, 2002.

Statement from Camryn Mosley. Age fourteen when she gave her statement in court, Camryn was nine years old when she was taken from her family in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

This memorandum from U.S. v. Lauryn Galindo states that the court had seen “ample statements of victims in this case which describe Galindo as callous, greedy, untruthful, and manipulative.” The government concludes that “Galindo’s sophisticated scheme to structure funds, establish overseas accounts and a trust to hold the real estate in which she lived in Hawaii, wholesale bribery of foreign government officials, and lavish lifestyle, corroborate these victim statements.”

Hawaii resident Lauryn Galindo sentenced to 18 months in prison in Cambodian adoption conspiracy. Lauryn Galindo, age 53, was sentenced to 18 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, 300 hours of community service, and more than $60,000 in restitution by U.S. District Court Judge Thomas S. Zilly for Conspiracy to Commit Visa Fraud and Conspiracy to Launder Money, and Structuring of Financial Transactions.


NOTE: This page from the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism website offers documentation of and background about serious irregularities in international adoption. For the systemic analysis of corruption in international adoption, please read “The Lie We Love,” Foreign Policy magazine, Nov./Dec. 2008, and visit our webpages dedicated to international adoption. For ideas about fairer policy solutions, please read “The Baby Business,” Democracy Journal, Summer 2010.


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Last page update: April 7, 2011