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Press Release

Manager of Adoption Agency Pleads Guilty to Ethiopian Adoption Fraud Scheme

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

A former foreign program director of International Adoption Guides Inc. (IAG), an adoption agency, pleaded guilty today to conspiring with others to defraud the United States by paying bribes to foreign officials and submitting fraudulent documents to the State Department for adoptions from Ethiopia.

Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney William N. Nettles for the District of South Carolina made the announcement. The guilty plea was entered by U.S. District Court Judge Sol Blatt Jr. of the District of South Carolina.

Alisa Bivens, 42, admitted as part of her plea that she and her co-conspirators submitted fraudulent documents to the State Department to facilitate adoptions of Ethiopian children by U.S. parents from 2006 until 2009. In support of U.S. visa applications for the Ethiopian children, Bivens and others submitted false documentation, including contracts of adoption signed by orphanages that could not properly give the children up for adoption because, for example, the child in question was never cared for or never resided at the orphanage.

In entering her guilty plea, Bivens also admitted that she and others paid bribes to two Ethiopian officials so that those officials would help with the fraudulent adoptions. The first of these two foreign officials, an audiologist and teacher at a government school, accepted money and other valuables in exchange for providing non-public medical information and social history information for potential adoptees to the conspirators. The second foreign official, the head of a regional ministry for women’s and children’s affairs, received money and all-expenses-paid travel in exchange for approving IAG’s applications for intercountry adoptions and for ignoring IAG’s failure to maintain a properly licensed adoption facility. Sentencing for Bivens will be scheduled at a later date.

This ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney John W. Borchert of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Jamie Lea Schoen for the District of South Carolina.

Updated September 15, 2014

Press Release Number: 14-829