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Macomb County mom at center of adoption probe pleads guilty to wire fraud charges

Tara Lee pleads guilty to 2 counts of wire fraud
Posted: 1:46 PM, Aug 20, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-20 13:47:21-04
Tara Lee Mug Shot

(WXYZ) — The Macomb County mother at the center of an adoption fraud probe faced a federal judge Tuesday and pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud. Tara Lee was scheduled to appear in federal court on Tuesday for a plea hearing, a month after turning down a plea deal.

Lee pleaded guilty to charges 4 and 5 of the indictment, which allege that on Feb. 25, 2018, a couple from Georgia received an Always Hope adoption opportunity for a birth mother identified as "RaShaunda." The opportunity included a photo of RaShaunda and said she was pregnant with a boy with a due date of June 30, 2018.

Lee pleaded guilty to charges 4 and 5 of the indictment, which allege that on Feb. 25, 2018, a couple from Georgia received an Always Hope adoption opportunity for a birth mother identified as "RaShaunda." The opportunity included a photo of RaShaunda and said she was pregnant with a boy with a due date of June 30, 2018.

A day later, the couple paid Lee $15,000 after Lee allegedly told them that RaShaunda had chosen them to adopt her child.

The indictment alleges that from February to June, Lee communicated with the couple through text messages and phone calls and gave updates, but on June 12, Lee called and said that RaShaunda had been shot and killed and that her baby died on the way to the hospital.

In the indictment, the feds say that RaShunda didn't exist, and that Lee fabricated RaShaunda and her pregnancy.

She is scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 19, 2019 at federal court in Ann Arbor.

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.

Last month 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.

She was facing more than two dozen charges.

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