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Macomb County mom accused in adoption probe says ‘No’ to plea deal

Tara Lee heads to trial in November 2019
Posted: 3:30 PM, Jul 23, 2019
Updated: 2019-07-23 17:58:05-04
Tara Lee Mug Shot

ANN ARBOR, MI — The Macomb County mother at the center of an adoption fraud probe faced a federal judge Tuesday to turn down a plea deal. That means if Tara Lynn Lee is convicted, she could face decades behind bars.

Dressed in an orange prison jump suit and with her hands and feet chained, Tara Lee officially turned down three plea agreements that the feds had offered her.

Judge Bernard Friedman locked Lee up back in March after the 7 Investigators caught Lee on camera violating her bond by using a cell phone after she had been ordered not to. Her lawyer has filed a new motion asking that she be released from jail before her trial due to family concerns and the need to prepare for trial.

The feds say Lee has taken in more than $1.6 million since 2017 by working on adoptions without a license.

FBI agents say Lee promised babies that didn’t exist and double matched adoptive couples to the same birth moms in order to bilk couples from across the country out of thousands of dollars.

John Crouch and his wife say they gave Lee $33,000 to adopt a baby boy, that he says he now knows did not exist. But Crouch says his family and dozens of others across the country were left with nothing but heartbreak.

“It affects real people every day. These people that have been affected by this, it’s not just another baby, not just money,” Crouch told 7 Investigator Heather Catallo. “There was hope there for those people and it was completely ripped away from them.”

The indictment references couples from Michigan, Colorado, Minnesota, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama, Wisconsin, and Illinois. The 7 Investigators have learned there are even more families affected by Lee’s alleged actions than are listed in the indictment. Sources close to the case say at least 80 families in 26 states have been impacted.

Tuesday inside the federal courthouse in Ann Arbor, an Assistant U.S. Attorney told the judge that Lee said no to three different plea agreements. They all would have required the 37-year-old from New Haven to plead guilty to two counts of wire fraud.

The first deal offered would have meant a prison sentence from 63 to 78 months.
For the second deal offered, the government proposed a sentence range of 78 to 97 months, the defense wanted 51 to 63 months.
And the third deal offered would have meant 97 to 121 months in prison with the guilty plea.

Lee said no. Now a federal grand jury has added even more charges, for a total of 23 counts of Wire
Fraud and 1 count of Aggravated Identity Theft. Wire Fraud is a 20-year felony. The Identity Theft count is a 15-year felony.

Judge Friedman wanted more time to review Lee’s motion to revoke her detention order. He ordered a hearing to be held Tuesday July 30, 2019 at 11am.

The trial is set for November 19, 2019.

If you have a story for Heather, please email her hcatallo@wxyz.com or call 248-827-4473