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Woman sentenced to 30 months in prison for adoption scam
by Staff report
Oct 03, 2008 | 1720 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A woman arrested at a Beeville motel in May and charged with attempting to scam couples seeking to adopt children was sentenced to prison Wednesday.

Belinda Ramirez, who engaged in a second adoption scheme following her release from prison for her 2007 adoption scheme conviction, has been sentenced to more than six years in prison, United States Attorney Don DeGabrielle announced.

Ramirez was convicted in January 2007 of mail and wire fraud and sentenced by U.S. District Judge Janis Graham Jack to 24 months in federal prison to be followed by three years of supervised release for engaging in an adoption scam, DeGabrielle reported.

“In that case, Ramirez claimed to be pregnant, found and communicated online with couples seeking to adopt and solicited and received money and gift cards purportedly to cover pregnancy expenses from a number of prospective adoptive parents,” he explained. “Ramirez was not pregnant, spent the money and caused prospective parents to spend thousands of dollars to make trips to Corpus Christi in anticipation of a birth that never happened.”

By May 2008, Ramirez, who had completed her prison term and had been released from prison, began a second adoption scam, DeGabrielle added.

“This second similar scheme — claiming a pregnancy, seeking adoptive parents online and soliciting things of value — involved numerous victims who lost approximately $17,747,” the federal prosecutor noted.

Ramirez pleaded guilty to two felony offenses — mail fraud and wire fraud — arising from this second adoption scheme, DeGabrielle said.

Judge Janice Graham Jack, calling Ramirez’s behavior “egregious,” sentenced Ramirez to 30 months on each of the two counts for the 2008 case — the maximum sentence under the applicable guideline range, followed by three years of supervised release. The sentences are to be served concurrently, meaning at the same time.

DeGabrielle said Jack, in deciding the sentence, considered the sophisticated means used by Ramirez — the use of a computer to look up adoption facilities and prospective adoptee profiles — to target persons she knew to be vulnerable.

He said Judge Jack furthered ordered Ramirez to have no access to cell phones, no contact with the victims, no access to the Internet and to obtain mental health and psychiatric care.

According to DeGabrielle, the investigation into the second adoption scam case that led to Ramirez’s arrest on May 21, 2008, by special agents of the FBI-Corpus Christi office at a motel in Beeville, was initiated after the FBI received a call from a detective of the Placer County Sheriff’s Department in California about a suspicious adoption by a woman calling herself “Jennifer Silver.”

“The California detective told FBI agents, Silver claimed to be looking to place her soon-to-be delivered baby up for adoption,” DeGabrielle recounted. “A couple from Fresno, Calif., seeking to adopt a baby, was contacted by an adoption facilitator and placed in contact with Silver. The prospective adoptive couple was told by Silver they had been chosen as adoptive parents for her baby. Silver told the couple she needed financial assistance to cover expenses for food, clothing and medical necessities.” The couple wired Silver a $800 Moneygram from California to Texas on May 19, 2008. DeGabrielle explained.

On May 21, 2008, FBI agents arranged to deliver an envelope addressed to Jennifer Silver from the California couple purported to contain approximately $500 in cash at the Beeville motel, he said.

“Belinda Ramirez was Jennifer Silver,” DeGabrielle said. “Ramirez was arrested at the hotel when she accepted delivery of the envelope.”

Additionally, because Ramirez was serving a term of supervised release as part of her sentence in her first conviction when she orchestrated the second adoption scheme, she faced revocation and the imposition of a second prison term. Judge Jack held a hearing, ordered the term of supervised release revoked and imposed a 24-month prison term on each of the two counts of conviction in that case — the maximum statutory sentence allowable. These terms of imprisonment are to be served consecutively to each other and to the 30-month sentence on the 2008 charges. Ramirez will serve a total of 78 months in the Bureau of Prisons.

Ramirez has been in custody since her May 2008 arrest and will remain in federal custody to begin serving her prison terms. Both cases were prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Elsa Salinas Patterson.
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