ELIZABETH VARGAS REPORTS ON THE SCANDAL THAT LED TO THE FIRST MORATORIUM ON CAMBODIAN ADOPTIONS, ON "20/20," AIRING FRIDAY, MARCH 25 ON ABC
American Adoption Facilitator Lauryn Galindo Speaks for First Time Since
Being Convicted of Visa Fraud and Money Laundering in 17 Adoption Cases
Elizabeth Vargas reports on the potential baby trafficking that led to the current and first-of-its kind moratorium on the adoption of Cambodian orphans, on "20/20," airing FRIDAY, MARCH 25 (10:00-11:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network.
In the first case of its kind, an American adoption facilitator who helped more than 700 families adopt babies from Cambodia will be sent to prison for charges related to baby trafficking. Although self-described humanitarian Lauryn Galindo pleaded guilty to charges of visa fraud, money laundering and tax related felonies in 17 cases, she says they were merely errors in paperwork and denies having anything to do with child trafficking.
But the U.S. government and some of the families she worked with paint a much darker picture of Galindo's activities and their lasting consequences. Now hundreds of adoptive families are left with agonizing questions: were their babies really orphans, or were they purchased from birth parents too poor to resist a handful of American dollars? Did Galindo's criminal actions in essence wipe out the true identities of Cambodian babies, many taken away from extended families, and did she possibly squander millions of dollars in donations from adoptive families that the families thought would aid Cambodian orphanages?
Lauryn Galindo talked exclusively to Elizabeth Vargas before she went to prison.
By all accounts Lauryn Galindo went to Cambodia with good intentions. She is credited with setting up the first U.S. adoptions from the country, and paving the way for all the adoptions that followed - thousands more. Her clients were well meaning couples who thought that, along with adding to their families, they were saving true orphans from a terrible life without hope. In this hour-long exposi, "20/20's" Elizabeth Vargas finds shattered families who say that what actually happened was far less wholesome.
Vargas travels to Cambodia to trace the evidence in a two-year government investigation. "20/20" chronicles one adopted teen's wrenching journey back to her birthplace, and discovers another child's real birth family in a remote mountain town. In far flung villages and decrepit city orphanages, "20/20" finds mothers who received money for their babies, the middlemen who profited, orphanage directors who say they were paid to lie about a child's true origins, and evidence that some mothers had been coerced into giving up their babies with false promises.
"These were manufactured orphans," says Judi Mosely, one of the parents who adopted an orphan from Cambodia. "They never should have been taken from their families."
Lauryn Galindo will now serve 18 months in prison. Cambodia's real orphans have been left to suffer. Because of the scandal, the United States issued a moratorium against adoptions from Cambodia and most other western countries followed suit. There is considerable debate about when and how it should be lifted.
"20/20" is anchored by Elizabeth Vargas and John Stossel. David Sloan is the executive producer.