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State looks into agency linked to baby trafficker

The Florida Department of Children and Families suspended its adoption license Dec. 5 and asked for an investigation.

By Associated Press
Published December 28, 2003

CORAL SPRINGS - The Florida Attorney General's Office has launched an investigation into an adoption agency linked to an inquiry into an international baby trafficking ring, state officials said.

Lawyers with Attorney General Charlie Crist's office on Tuesday served subpoenas seeking corporate records from International Adoption Resource Inc., executive director Rebecca Thurmond and employee Joy Shasky Graw.

Family Creations, a Bradenton adoption agency that took over IAR's 63 case files after welfare officials suspended the company's license, also received a subpoena seeking records.

Crist spokeswoman JoAnn Carrin said the subpoenas are the first step into an investigation of whether IAR violated the state's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act.

In September, Costa Rican officials discovered nine Guatemalan babies in a makeshift nursery allegedly run by an illegal adoption ring. Officials linked the babies to a Costa Rican lawyer associated with the Coral Springs agency.

IAR attorney Cheryl Eisen acknowledged that the adoption agency leased the house, which was used by Guatemalan women who wanted to bypass a halt on foreign adoptions in their country. Eisen said the arrangement was legal under Costa Rican law.

The Department of Children and Families suspended the agency's license Dec. 5 and asked Crist's office to start the investigation. Jack L. Moss, DCF district administrator in Broward County, said his agency requested the probe to help determine whether to revoke or reinstate IAR's license, which expires Jan. 16.

Welfare officials said IAR lied about connections to an alleged child smuggler. The adoption agency has not been charged with criminal wrongdoing by either Costa Rican or U.S. officials.

Thurmond's attorney, Michael B. Cohen, who also is representing IAR, said his client believes she will be cleared of all the allegations.

"She's done nothing wrong whatsoever," he said. "Her whole background and history has been sterling."

Eisen, also an attorney for Family Creations, said that agency is not a target of the investigation. Rather, the subpoenas requested any documents or correspondence received from IAR.

"I am certain they do not believe Family Creations has violated any laws," she said of state officials. "The Attorney General's Office is collecting as much information as they can."

The adoption agencies have until Jan. 9 to comply with the subpoenas.

[Last modified December 28, 2003, 01:01:07]

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