Four current and former employees of International Adoption Guides Inc. (IAG), an adoption services provider, have been indicted by a grand jury in South Carolina for allegedly conspiring to defraud the United States in connection with IAG’s adoption services in Ethiopia. IAG is a South Carolina company that identified children in Ethiopia for adoption and arranged for their adoption by U.S.-based parents.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice
Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney William N. Nettles of the
District of South Carolina and Assistant Secretary Gregory B. Starr of
the Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security made the
“The defendants are accused of obtaining adoption decrees and U.S. visas
by submitting fraudulent adoption contracts signed by orphanages that
never cared for or housed the children, thus undermining the very laws
that are designed to protect the children and families involved,” said
Acting Assistant Attorney General Raman. “As today’s indictments show,
the Justice Department, alongside its partners both here and abroad,
will respond vigorously to these criminal schemes and will act to
protect the many families and children who rely on the integrity of the
“The Bureau of Diplomatic Security uses its global presence to
vigorously investigate any fraud related to the acquisition of U.S.
visas,” said Assistant Secretary Starr. “The Department of State’s
Bureaus of Consular Affairs and Diplomatic Security are firmly committed
to working with the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate and bring
to justice people who victimize children and families by abusing
inter-country adoption system and bribe officials to facilitate their
The international program director and coordinator for IAG, James
Harding, 53, of Lawrenceville, Ga., was arrested today in Georgia.
Alisa Bivens, 42, of Gastonia, N.C., who oversaw the Ethiopian
operations from the United States, is scheduled to make an appearance at
a later date in U.S. District Court in Charleston, S.C.
The company’s executive director, Mary Mooney, 53, of Belmont, N.C., was
apprehended in Belize by Belizean authorities and transported to the
Haile Mekonnen, age unknown, an Ethiopian national who ran IAG’s
operations on the ground in Ethiopia, was also charged in the
According to the indictment, the defendants allegedly engaged in a
five-year conspiracy to violate laws relating to the adoption of
Ethiopian children by U.S. parents. The scheme involved, among other
things, paying orphanages to “sign off” on contracts of adoption with
the adopting parents as if the children had been raised by those
orphanages — even though the children had never resided in those
orphanages and had not been cared for or raised there. These orphanages
could not, therefore, properly offer these children up for adoption.
In some instances, the children resided with a parent or relative.
As part of the charged conspiracy, the defendants then allegedly
submitted or caused to be submitted these fraudulent contracts of
adoption to Ethiopian courts in order to secure adoption decrees, and
submitted or caused to be submitted the fraudulent contracts of adoption
and the fraudulently procured adoption decrees to the U.S. Embassy in
Ethiopia in order to obtain U.S. visas for the children to travel to the
United States to be with their new families. The indictment also
charges that the defendants’ scheme involved paying bribes to an
Ethiopian government official and agreeing to create counterfeit U.S.
Customs and Immigration Service forms that were to be submitted to the
The charge of conspiring to defraud the United States carries a maximum
penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or
twice the value gained or lost.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the
defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
If you believe you have been a victim of this crime involving the named
individuals or International Adoption Guides, please call 1-800-837-2655
and leave your contact information.
If you have questions or concerns about adoptions from Ethiopia
in general, please contact the Office of Children’s Issues at the
Department of State through the email address
If you have specific questions about an adoption from Ethiopia
that IAG facilitated, you should contact the Office of Children’s Issues
at the Department of State through the email address
This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
The prosecution is being conducted by Assistant United States
Attorney Jamie Schoen of the District of South Carolina and Trial
Attorney John W. Borchert of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.