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Macomb County mom at center of FBI adoption probe indicted on 18 counts of wire fraud

Tara Lee has been under investigation for months
Tara Lee
Posted at 12:58 PM, Mar 07, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-07 15:47:58-05

(WXYZ) — It's a story the 7 Investigators were the first to expose, and now, a Macomb County mother at the center of an FBI adoption probe has been indicted.

In January, Tara Lee was charged in a criminal complaint, and now, a grand jury has indicted her on 18 counts of wire fraud.

The 37-year-old from New haven has been under investigation for months. In January, U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider told us about the case against Lee.

The allegation is, this is all a scam of adoptive parents, purported adoptive parents – people who want to adopt a baby, think they’re going to go through a legitimate adoption process, and in the end there’s no baby and there’s no process," Lee said.

7 Action News was there as federal agents raided Lee’s house back in November, and families across the U.S. have been calling us with stories of heartbreak and financial ruin after failed adoptions.

Stacy Markley, a mother from Ohio, was one of Lee's alleged victims.

"All we got was a sonogram picture when we signed the contract with her," Markley said. "But they’re supposed to at least have her first name on it, so we can know that it’s her baby, or we’re supposed to get a paper signed from the doctor saying proof of pregnancy and we never got that."

The allegations in the indictment range from Lee having a woman call an adoptive couple and pretend to be a pregnant birth mom to promising one couple a baby from a woman Lee had never even met.

The feds say Lee took more than $200,000 from couples across the country.

In the indictment, the alleged victims are from 10 states that include: Michigan, Colorado, Minnesota, Georgia, Missouri, South Carolina, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Alabama.

According to the indictment, federal agents say Lee matched birth mothers and adoptive parents by first sending a description of a pregnant woman to her network of adoption connections. That description would include the alleged pregnant woman's first name and information about her pregancy.

"On several occasions, Lee matched more than one set of adoptive parents to a birth mother," the indictment reads. "In these 'double matches,' Lee collected payment from prospective adoptive parents."

The feds also alleged that in other instances, Lee matched with birth mothers that either didn't exist, weren't pregnant, or hadn't decided to put their child up for adoption. She collected payment for these "fabricated matches," the feds say.

"It was part of the scheme that many of the adoptions arranged by Lee failed, either because the pregnancy was not real, the pregnancy had been matched to more than one family, the birth mother was not interested in adoption, or the birth mother changed her mind about adoption," the indictment reads. Lee gave false information to adoptive parents when explaining why an adoption failed."

Also, the indictment said that Lee would tell the adoptive parents that the adoption had failed, but kept encouraging them to work with her and would "quickly" present them with new birth mother opportunities. According to the feds, Lee would then offer to roll over some of the funds they had paid for the failed adoption to a new match, and in some instances, would also request and obtain more payment for new birth mother matches.

Birth mothers who worked with Lee have told the 7 Investigators they were often told to lie.

Federal agents also said in the complaint that Lee would make “fabricated matches.” In those cases, “the ‘birth mother Lee describes in the opportunity [to adoptive families] is not truly pregnant, not interested in adoption, or fictitious.”

Agents also describe hopeful couples charging tens of thousands of dollars on multiple credit cards in order to quickly secure the alleged “match” with Lee for babies that never existed.

Read the entire indictment below.

Macomb County mom at center of FBI adoption probe indicted on 18 counts of wire fraud by WXYZ-TV Channel 7 Detroit on Scribd