News/US: Attorney, 'two Arlenes' sentenced in Mexican baby smuggling case

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Subject: News/US: Attorney, 'two Arlenes' sentenced in Mexican baby smuggling case
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Fri Jun 23 2000 - 10:37:25 EDT


Attorney, 'two Arlenes' sentenced in Mexican baby smuggling case
By Frank Eltman
April 19, 2000

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) -- An attorney from Arizona and two Long Island women
were sentenced to federal prison for scheming to smuggle Mexican children
into the United States.

Prospective parents paid as much as $20,000 for what they thought were
legal adoptions.

"I realize I contributed to the pain and suffering of the people in this
case," Arlene Lieberman of Medford said Monday before being sentenced to 15
months. "I never meant to hurt anyone. ... I am truly sorry."

Lieberman and Arlene Reingold, who also was sentenced to 15 months, each
were ordered to pay $43,500 in restitution. Prosecutors had referred to the
Long Island women as "the two Arlenes."

"I can only pray for forgiveness," said Reingold, also of Medford. She said
she thought she was acting in good faith to bring needy children together
with prospective parents who were desperate to adopt.

As his wife wept quietly and recited the rosary in the back of the
courtroom, attorney Mario Reyes - who lives in Douglas, Ariz., and
practices law in Mexico - was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Jacob
Mishler to 30 months of prison time and told to pay $125,000 in restitution.

All three previously pleaded guilty to federal conspiracy charges.

Reyes, who had an office in Agua Prieta, Mexico, across the border from
Douglas, had arranged for at least 23 Mexican babies to be illegally
brought into the United States through Arizona over the past several years.

In some instances, it was alleged in an indictment, Reyes made false
representations to prospective adoptive parents about the health of the
babies, some of whom turned out to have serious medical problems.

According to the criminal complaint, Lieberman and Reingold were local
consultants who used various named adoption businesses on Long Island to
steer prospective parents to Reyes.

The adoptive parents, many of whom lived on Long Island, were led to
believe that their babies had legally entered the United States. A
spokesman for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service said early in
the case that the agency doesn't intend to deport the children.

Barbara Austin, a mother who adopted one of the children, told the judge
that "what we've had to endure was never expected." She said that since the
arrests of Reyes, Reingold and Lieberman, she has worried about the effect
it may have on her now 3-year-old daughter. "Everyone has suffered. ...
It's never going to leave me."

Reyes apologized "if I have offended anyone," but went on to maintain that
he believed he was acting as a humanitarian for taking the children away
from lives of poverty in Mexico and placing them with well-to-do American
families. He also said his strong anti-abortion philosophy was part of his
motivation.

"I saved lives," he told the judge. "These children were going to be
aborted. ... I firmly believe I did not damage or hurt anyone."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Macht reserved most of his criticism for Reyes.

"He has never accounted for, in any meaningful way, that he lied to the
adoptive parents," Macht said. "I find it shocking and disturbing that he
continues to maintain that nobody was harmed."

All three were permitted to remain free until their prison terms start on
June 19. Mishler said he would recommend that Reyes be permitted to serve
his term in a federal facility somewhere near his home in Arizona.

However, Reyes' legal problems may not be over. Mexico's attorney general
has filed an extradition request, Macht said. Officials there have said
they want to prosecute Reyes on charges of trafficking in children and
illegally holding a minor.
Melanie Orhant <<morhant@igc.org>>
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