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Out of Cambodia 


THE ORPHAN MANUFACTURING CHAIN is not limited to infants and toddlers. In 1999, Songkea was 9 or 10 years old. She lived with her brother, sister, brother-in-law and nephew in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Her mother had recently died, but close relatives lived nearby. Songkea thrived in school and in her dance lessons and loved playing with her nephew and cousins.

One day, a man approached the girl. He was a child recruiter and later told ABC's "20/20," which investigated Songkea's case in 2005, that he had been paid $300 to recruit her for adoption.

"[A] man stopped me, and told me to go and ask my family if I could live in America. The man told me if they agreed, I should move to the orphanage for two weeks, and they would take me to Phnom Penh after that," Songkea wrote five years later in a victim-impact statement presented in a U.S. court. "Suddenly, they told me I would go to Phnom Penh that day and meet my new mother. I didn't say goodbye to my sister, or anyone else."

Meanwhile, Judith Mosley, who was living in Saipan with her husband and children and awaiting word about a pending adoption, got a call from Lynn Devin at Seattle International Adoptions, which Devin ran with her sister, Lauryn Galindo. Devin told Mosley to go to Phnom Penh to meet Galindo, the adoption facilitator. There, Mosley was told, she would receive her new daughter.

After meeting Songkea, Mosley—despite Galindo's protests— insisted on going with the girl to see the Siem Reap orphanage where she had lived. But once at the orphanage, the child gave the taxi driver directions to her family's house. There Mosley learned that Songkea had a family, although she believed that they had knowingly given her up for adoption.

Just before Mosley and Songkea, now to be named Camryn, boarded the plane back to Saipan, Galindo handed Mosley the adoption paperwork. It said that Songkea had been living in the orphanage for four years and had no known family -- which Mosley by then knew to be false. She continued to believe, however, that Camryn's family had chosen to give her and that Galindo had simply mishandled the documentation.

In December 2001, following investigations by a local human rights group and the Phnom Penh Post that exposed baby-buying and abduction through Galindo's adoption operations, as well as others, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service halted adoptions from Cambodia and began its own criminal investigation. The moratorium on adoptions continues today. In 2004, Galindo pleaded guilty to federal charges of conspiracy to commit visa fraud and launder money stemming from her role in arranging the adoption of Cambodian children such as Songkea. She was sentenced to 18 months in prison and also ordered to forfeit more than $1.4 million in property in Hawaii.

Devin, who prosecutors say did not know that babies were being bought, pleaded guilty to related charges after providing information to officials about her sister's activities and was sentenced to six months of house arrest. It is not known how many of the more than 700 children whom the operation matched with new families were actually orphans.

In 2004, Mosley took Camryn back to Cambodia to visit her biological family. By then a teenager, Camryn was no longer fluent in Khmer, but she says she was profoundly happy to see the family she loved. Today she is waiting for her college acceptance letters.

Download the PDF of "The Adoption Underworld," which includes "Out of Cambodia" and "The orphan manufacturing chain"; or read the article at The Washington Post: "Out of Cambodia."

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.