The former executive director of an Ohio-based international adoption agency pleaded guilty today in the Northern District of Ohio to defrauding the U.S. and Polish authorities in connection with the adoption of a Polish child.
According to court documents, Margaret Cole, 74, of Strongsville, Ohio, admitted to conspiring with Debra Parris and others to deceive authorities regarding the adoption of a child from Poland. When Cole learned that clients of the adoption agency determined they could not care for one of the two Polish children they were set to adopt, Cole and her co-conspirators took steps to transfer the Polish child to Parris’s relatives, who were not eligible for intercountry adoption.
Cole, Parris and others agreed to defraud U.S. authorities to conceal their improper transfer of the Polish child. Following the adoption, the child was injured and hospitalized while living with Parris’s relatives. Thereafter, Cole made a false statement to the Polish authority responsible for intercountry adoptions about the transfer of the child that, among other things, concealed the role of Cole and others in arranging the transfer of the child to Parris’s relatives.
Cole pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and making a false statement to a Polish authority. She is scheduled to be sentenced on May 27. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Co-defendant Debra Parris previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States in connection with the Poland scheme, as well as conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and to commit visa fraud in connection with a scheme to corruptly and fraudulently procure adoptions of children from Uganda through bribes paid to Ugandan officials. Robin Longoria also previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit visa fraud and wire fraud in connection with the Ugandan scheme. Co-defendant Dorah Mirembe, who is charged in connection with the Ugandan scheme, remains at large.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; U.S. Attorney Bridget M. Brennan for the Northern District of Ohio; Assistant Director Luis Quesada of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division; and Special Agent in Charge Eric B. Smith of the FBI’s Cleveland Field Office made the announcement.
If you believe you are a victim of this offense, please visit https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/victim-witness-program or call (888) 549-3945.
The FBI’s Cleveland Field Office is investigating the case.
Trial Attorneys Jason Manning and Alexander Kramer of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Chelsea Rice of the Northern District of Ohio are prosecuting the case. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs assisted in the investigation.
The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.
An indictment is merely an allegation, and Mirembe is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.