Baby Broker Receives 18-Month Sentence in US

Lauryn Galindo, the self-professed humanitarian who took children from Cambodian families and linked them with adoptive parents abroad, was sentenced Friday to 18 months in a US prison for visa fraud and money laundering, the US immigration agency said.

Galindo’s sentencing caps a two-year investigation into her network of recruiters who bought babies from poor families and then falsified visa documents to present them as orphans eligible for adoption.

“This investigation focused on a scheme that treated hundreds of children as nothing more than commodities,” Leigh Winchell, a US Immigration and Customs En­forcement agent, said in a news release.

Federal Judge Thomas Zilly ordered Galindo to pay more than $60,000 in compensation to adoptive families and forfeit her $1.4 million home in Hawaii and her Jaguar sports car, luxuries de­rived from a business that earned her and her sister Lynn Devin some $8 million between 1997 and 2001. Devin, pleaded guilty last year to similar charges.

Operation Broken Hearts ran an adoption network pipelining about 100 babies a month to the US for large fees that rarely benefited families or orphanages here, causing the US to suspend all adoptions from Cambodia in late 2001.

Galindo ‘s 700 adoptions earned her awards from the government and tight relations with top officials, most notably Senate Pres­ident Chea Sim.

Since her indictment last year, Cambodian authorities have failed to initiate a parallel investigation of complicit parties here. Evi­dence collected by the US could implicate former Galindo associates heading or working in orphanages today.

To obtain children for adoption, Galindo relied on orphanage di­rec­tors and taxi drivers who in some cases promised birth families payments of $20 to $200 for babies, ac­cording to the US immigration agency. The infants were screened for HIV and other illnesses before Galindo falsified documents to erase family histories.

Galindo’s lawyers ar­gued at the sentencing that she suf­fered from an obsession with hu­manitarian work that blinded her to the moral ambiguities of her trade.

Among Galindo’s former cli­ents is actress Angelina Jolie.


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