An Arizona attorney and two New York women were sentenced to federal prison yesterday after admitting they had smuggled Mexican children into the United States, where prospective parents paid as much as $20,000 (£12,656).
Arlene Lieberman and Arlene Reingold were each given 15 months and ordered to pay $43,500 (£27,527) in restitution. Attorney Mario Reyes of Douglas, Arizona, received 30 months in prison and was told to pay $25,000 (£15,821).
Lieberman, of Medford, New York, said: "I realise I contributed to the pain and suffering of the people in this case. I never meant to hurt anyone ... I am truly sorry." Reingold added: "I can only pray for forgiveness," She said she thought she was acting in good faith to bring needy children together with prospective parents desperate to adopt.
All three had pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges.
Reyes, who had an office in a Mexican border town called Agua Prieta, had arranged for at least 17 Mexican babies to be brought illegally through Arizona. It was alleged that, in some instances, he had made false representations to prospective adoptive parents about the health of the babies, some of whom turned out to have severe medical problems.
He told the court: "I saved lives. These children were going to be aborted. I firmly believe I did not damage or hurt anyone." But Tim Macht, an assistant US Attorney said: "He has never accounted for, in any meaningful way, that he lied to the adoptive parents," Macht said.
Lieberman and Reingold were local consultants who used various adoption businesses on Long Island to steer prospective parents to Reyes.
A spokesman for the US Immigration and Naturalisation Service said early in the case that the agency did not intend to deport the children involved.
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