The Con Artists

On Friday, March 19, Ezequiel Abiu Lopez of the Associated Press reported that Jorge Puello was arrested on human-trafficking charges in the Dominican Republic. Puello, age 32, is described as a “fugitive who once acted as the attorney for a group of U.S. Baptist missionaries accused of kidnapping 33 Haitian children.” The article goes on to say Puello is also wanted in Vermont and Canada for smuggling illegal immigrants, as well as in Philadelphia for violations related to fraud charges.

For someone like me who has adopted two children from Guatemala and closely observed that country’s adoption practices in the years since, this feels like deju vu all over again.  Jorge Puello is a con artist I already know. These con artists are a small but powerful minority who operate in the shadowy corners of international adoption, able to manipulate and exploit naive and trusting adoptive parents by preying on their emotions. The cons often operate in a country not their own and are therefore immune to the host country’s legal censure. Thus, when our first adoption became troubled and stalled due to improper practices,  the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala could claim “It’s not our problem,” as could the authorities in Guatemala. Only months into the process did we discover that our facilitator previously had worked in programs of other countries. When those countries shut down, the facilitator changed the agency name and resurfaced in Guatemala. When the U.S. Embassy  finally “banned” the facilitator from submitting cases to the Embassy, he simply hired workers to submit cases on his behalf.  A skilled con artist knows exactly how far he can go before  he breaks an international law.

Adoptions from Guatemala have been closed to families from the United States for two years. With new regulations in place, they are due to reopen in June. It will remain to be seen if the Jorge Puellos of the world will jump from Haiti and reopen for business in Central America. 

To read the AP article in its entirety, click on the link:

 http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/n/a/2010/03/19/international/i110603D34.DTL

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